Communities living around Mt Kenya will have to do without water for while after efforts by political leaders to intervene and stop the destruction of the water intakes hit a snag.
Attempts by Nyeri leaders to halt operations of disconnecting water intakes appeared to have failed after a meeting with Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui and his environment counterpart Keriako Tobiko was cancelled.
The two ministers were expected in Nyeri on Thursday to hold talks with the leaders and locals over the crisis after Kenya Forest Rangers destroyed 660 abstractions in Mt Kenya and Aberdare forests.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega revealed that the meeting collapsed due to demonstrations that were held in Kabaru on Wednesday.
The demos did not go down well with Mr Tobiko who opted out of the trip to Nyeri.
“The two Cabinet secretaries did not come because in yesterday’s demos somebody said that the government should not dictate how we use our water, which he took as a threat,” Mr Kega said Thursday during a meeting at Naromoru Forest Station.
Though leaders had earlier this week come out feistily demanding a stop to the destruction of the abstractions, the tone seemed to have changed hours to the planned meeting with the ministers.
In fact, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua who called for the sacking of Mr Tobiko even pleaded with locals to call off the Wednesday demos.
“I am requesting that we suspend the demo until we exhaust all other avenues, and since the planned demo was to force the Government to listen to us it would be pointless to have it when two Cabinet Secretaries have agreed to a meeting,” Mr Gachagua wrote on his Facebook page.
Following the demonstrations that saw three people arrested for illegal assembly, the crucial meeting meant to break the deadlock was called off with only hours to go.
Mr Kega said a later date would be communicated even as they continued to push for reconnection of water supplies.
At the same time, Meru County residents are bracing for a long spell of water scarcity due to the ongoing audit and restructure of water abstraction.
Meru Ecosystem Conservator John Njoroge on Thursday said they had blocked over 235 water connection points in Lower Imenti, Ngare Ndare, Nyambene, Mucheene and Ruthumbi forests, most of which were illegal.
This followed a directive from the Environment and Natural Resources and Water and Irrigation ministries, he said, adding that he was not sure how long the audit would take.
The exercise is expected to take several weeks since all those who had extracted water in forests had been instructed to present their documents to ascertain whether they had paid the fees, he said.
This means that more than 100,000 people in Buuri Constituency will go without water for several weeks to come.
The resident demanded that the ministry reconnects the water.
“We were ordered to shutdown all the points so that an audit can be done. You find that people have installed 12 inch pipes that draw too much water, leaving rivers to dry.
"We thought that rivers were drying up due to destruction of forests but it was discovered that illegal connections were draining all the water from the rivers,” Mr Njoroge said.
Buuri MP Mugambi Rindikiri said destruction of the intakes was illegal and asked the authorities to reconnect water.
“We cannot allow our people to suffer simply because some people are not following the law.
"I spoke to the Water CS and he assured me that those that would be disconnected were the illegal points but this was not the case. Even hospitals and schools have been affected,” he said.
“We all rely on this water for farming and domestic use and we cannot do without it,” he added.