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Nanok, Lonyangapuo worried over imminent Turkwel Dam spill over

Thursday July 30 2020
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Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok (2nd right) and West Pokot's John Lonyangapuo (right) at Turkwel Dam on July 29, 2020. The governors expressed concerns over an imminet spillover due to rising water levels at the dam. PHOTO | SAMMY LUTTA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SAMMY LUTTA

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok and his West Pokot counterpart John Lonyangapuo have raised concerns over imminent spill over of water at Turkwel Dam.

The dam, which is used to generate hydroelectric power, has exceeded its record water level mark since it was built in 1980s.

The governors, who met with officials from Kenya Electricity Generation Company, Kerio Valley Development Authority and Water Resources Authority on Wednesday during a fact-finding mission at the facility stated that the water levels have reached 1,143 metres above sea level, meaning only seven meters remain for it to completely fill up.

Governor Nanok said that with the ongoing heavy rains in the area, they are starring at a major disaster downstream that will directly affected more than 300,000 Turkana residents living along River Turkwel and which may destroy 50 per cent of irrigation farms.

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The water level gauge at Turkwel Dam. PHOTO | SAMMY LUTTA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

EXTRAORDINARY FLOODS

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"We anticipate extraordinary floods as engineers on the ground have told us that the expected spill over discharge will be 1,000 cubic meters per second. If the status quo of lack of preparedness by all relevant stakeholders remains unchanged, lives will be lost," he said.

He called on the national government, through the departments of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development to urgently meet with relevant stakeholders so that a technical team can update them on contingency and preparedness plans.

"It is critical for us to be updated on existing contingency plans and own them for better planning. At the moment, we don't know all mapped out flood areas downstream to inform us on locals whom we can tell to move to higher grounds and who not to," Mr Nanok said.

He noted that during normal floods, a quarter of Lodwar town is usually affected.

SCHOOLS AND VILLAGES

Governor Lonyangapuo said that they have already mapped out villages and schools around the dam that can be directly affected by the spill over.

"We urge relevant authorities at the national government, Kerio Valley Development Authority and KeNGEN to take quick action and raise awareness for people living downstream to avoid disaster in the event the dam waters spill over," he said.

Turkana County Commissioner Muthama Wambua and his West Pokot counterpart Apollo Okello, who accompanied the two governors, warned that a spill over can happen in the next three months.

"For those locals living downstream and are usually affected by normal flooding, they must start moving now to higher grounds for safety of both lives and property. We can't tell exactly which day the disaster will strike," Mr Wambua said.

Mr Okello called for daily updates on rising water levels as a prerequisite for preparedness.

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