Water consumers in Kiambu and Nairobi may have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for water should the wrangles going on in Murang’a continue.
This is after Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria and the county assembly vowed stop construction of the Sh6.8bn Northern Collector Tunnel if the county does not receive 25 per cent of revenue got from selling the commodity to Nairobi and Kiambu.
The governor will also go for the same cut in Ndakai-ini dam, which supplies 84 per cent of water to Nairobi. The move has elicited a sharp reaction from the national government. It has vowed to step in should Murang'a county stick to its guns on the matter, which threatens to derail the World Bank-funded northern collector tunnel.
The governor said water was the only natural resource from the county and would not allow other counties to be selling it to consumers when the county residents had no water and received no single penny from the natural resource.
“Water is our oil. Residents in Turkana demand their fair share through demonstrations and picketing until the government listened to them. We are not an exception, we can’t be giving water to other counties for free when they sell the same commodity to residents,” the governor said.
1,000 SWIMMING POOLS
Speaking at Kenol town when he met the community volunteers the county boss said Nairobi had over 1,000 swimming pools constructed by water from Ndakaini while Murang’a people had serious challenges of water shortage and paid water at exaggerated prices.
“If it’s hot, people in Nairobi stay in swimming pools like crocodiles while in Murang’a we are grappling with water challenges. If they don’t part with 25 per cent of the revenue they collect, I shall lead the people of Murang’a in blocking the water that goes to those counties,” the governor vowed.
He said that revenue from the counties that benefit from Murang’a water will play a pivotal role in supplying the county constituents with water. More than 70 per cent of the county population has no access of safe and clean drinking water.
Mr Iria announced that the county assembly was in the process of formulating a County Water Bill that will outline how water will be managed and that which goes to other counties.
“The assembly is drafting a law which will encompass the views of members of public over the management of water companies and giving clear guidelines on why we shall benefit with our water which goes to Kiambu and Nairobi counties,” he reiterated.
He said that, in the law, there will be a provision of free water to the first 60 litres of water as well as dissolution of water companies to merge them into one company which will decentralise the water company operations.
However Athi Water Services Board Acting Chief Executive Officer Mwangi Thuita rubbished Mr Iria’s claims saying the county has received water projects worth Sh600 million courtesy of the Northern Water project.
Talking to Nation on phone the CEO said there are ongoing water projects like Gatanga Water project, Kenol Maragua water project to boost Kandara bulk water supply, Gatango water project in Mathioya.
“We had received county government’s petition proposing to get a certain percentage of the revenue but they should understand that water is a national resource managed by the boards and not counties. We have initiated several water projects that will benefit the people of Murang’a,” Mr Thuita said
He said Gatanga water project will be completed next year while all the others will be complete by June next year a move he said will make the county the first ever county to attain waster connection of 80 per cent.
Senator Irungu Kangata supported the governor's proposal, saying the county has always been given a raw deal by the nation government. He said the National Government should conduct an audit of water projects which were to be established before Northern Water Collector Tunnel is launched and operational.
The Senator said that, despite the project being 80 per cent complete, none of the water projects had been established. He said it was against the conditions set out by Murang’a people to the National Government that the project should not be operational before residents are supplied with water.
He added that there should be meetings between the government and the people to discuss the way forward. Two years ago, Opposition leader Raila Odinga said the project would reduce eight counties into deserts. He accused the government of working secretly on the project.
Mr Odinga wanted President Kenyatta to immediately stop the World Bank-funded water project until a comprehensive audit on environmental concerns raised by residents was done. He warned that its implementation would deny residents of Murang'a, Ukambani, Garissa, Tana River and other parts of the Coast their source of livelihood.
Last week, residents of Kiriaini village in Gatanga Constituency urged the Athi Water Services Board to halt the project accusing the contractor of storming into their farms and slashing farm produce before they had come into an agreement with them. Environmentalists claim that the contractors altered the original design and put up structures 'designed to collect water from the upstream instead of downstream'.