The government has caved in to pressure from Mt Kenya politicians and agreed to restore all legal water intakes that were destroyed at taxpayers’ expense.
This comes as farmers in Mt Kenya counties continued to go without water for the third week running.
During a tense meeting held at Utalii Hotel in Nairobi, politicians from the region took Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui and his Environment counterpart Keriako Tobiko to task over the closure of the intakes, saying people from the region are suffering.
Mr Chelugui said his ministry will reconstruct the intakes destroyed during a crackdown last month. He, however, did not give the time frame.
"We have agreed that all water abstraction points shall have flow meters to determine the actual amount of water abstracted and to regulate flow for fair distribution of water to all farmers,” Mr Chelugui said after the meeting.
AVOID CROSSING PIPELINES
The ministry also pledged to construct common water intakes for residents located in the same area to avoid crossing pipelines and make it easier for them to monitor water usage.
The CS, however, said the government will continue to destroy all illegal intakes and will not allow those that had been illegally constructed to be built again.
“Farmers also need to review the type of irrigation methods currently in use to reduce wastage of water,” Mr Chelugui said.
The leaders also agreed to fast-track the construction of proposed dams in the region to provide water for irrigation, domestic and industrial purposes. This will enable farmers store water for 90 days.
Mr Chelugui said illegal abstractions in Nithi will be removed so as to improve water flow to Tharaka region in Tharaka Nithi county.
The destruction of intakes affected farmers from six counties.
According to a report from the two ministries, there were about 75 intakes in Sagana River while Thegu River had 45 intakes, which are disproportionately high.
But the legislators accused the ministries of being inconsiderate.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega said the ministries were driving a wedge between the government and the people. "We have expressed our disgust with the destruction of the water intakes and we want them reinstated immediately," he said.
Buuri MP Mugambi Rindikiri demanded that the ministries restore the water points swiftly as the disconnections had been an inconvenience to key institutions, including hospitals and schools.
Farmers in Meru and Nyeri counties have registered massive losses since the government disconnected water intakes in Mt Kenya forest.
Ms Margaret Riungu, a dairy farmer at Kathera, South Imenti, said she spent Sh40,000 to buy water tanks for her 18 cows. “We did not need these tanks before since we relied on piped water. The disconnection came as a shock to us because we were not even alerted. I have to buy water for my cows, which is very expensive,” she said.
Mr Peterson Kiogora, a farmer at Timau, Buuri sub-county, said he had invested Sh50,000 on his farm but the crops withered after the water was disconnected. He had planted French beans, carrots and tomatoes. He expected to earn more than Sh300,000 from the produce.
Intakes will cost a lot to restore, said Ms Annestine Gatwiri, another farmer in Timau. She said their investment worth more than Sh500,000 was destroyed.
In Kieni, residents have already started reconnecting destroyed water intakes in Mt Kenya and Aberdare forests.
The farmers are having to bear the cost. Members of Githegu Water Project in Kabaru, one of the biggest, are required to replace the master metre at a cost of over Sh60,000.
LOST SH4.2 MILLION
For three weeks, farmers have not irrigated their farms. “Over 1,000 acres of crops have been damaged due to lack of water for three weeks now. Our water intake was legally licensed by WRA [Water Resources Authority] but they destroyed it as well,” said Mr Stephen Irungu from Kabaru in Kieni.
Jackson Gikonyo, fish farmer, said: “I have lost over Sh4.2 million because all the fish died for lack of fresh water. The government should have warned us in advance.”
Reporting by Pauline Kairu, Nicholas Komu and Gitonga Marete