Senate team wants Solai dam owner charged

Tuesday May 15 2018

Patel dam, Solai

An aerial view of Patel dam in Solai, Nakuru County. The dam collapsed on May 9, 2018 killing more than 40 people. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
More by this Author

A Committee of the Senate is demanding the immediate arrest and prosecution of the owner of the dam which caused the deaths of 47 people after its walls collapsed.

Members of the Committee on National Security expressed concern that nearly a week after the incident, the owner of the farm had neither appeared in public to condole with the victims nor written a statement.

During a press conference at Parliament Buildings, the committee, led by its chairman Yusuf Haji, demanded that Mansukhlal Patel, who is believed to be the owner of the farm where the dam was located, to be arraigned in court and be forced to compensate all the victims as the disaster was largely a consequence of his negligence.

COLLAPSED

“Buildings have collapsed in the past and the owners were arrested, questioned and forced to record statements. This does not appear to be the case in Solai dam disaster because it has been a week already and the owner has not recorded a statement. How powerful is the owner?” Mr Haji asked.

The committee toured the expansive farm and the site of the killer dam on Monday as part of its fact-finding mission on the tragedy in which 47 people are believed to have died so far and many others displaced after the walls of the dam collapsed.

According to the committee, out of the seven dams in Patel Coffee Estates Ltd, the one that collapsed was the only one that was licensed by the Water Resources Management Authority.

VIOLATION

Even then, the committee established, Mr Patel had violated the requirements in the license by storing more than100 times the recommended water capacity.

The committee also established that Mr Patel had blocked the natural flow of Rivers Marigo and Kwangaru and diverted them to his dams.

The blocking of the rivers denied area residents access to water and they had been forced to rely on water supplied by Mr Patel’s in the guise of social corporate responsibility.

The committee also observed that many of the dams in the area are constructed upstream while settlements are located downstream, a potential for another disaster. It wants all dams closed and where necessary new ones constructed downstream, below the settlements.

SACKED

And while the committee called for quick investigations into the disaster, it also observed that Solai Boys High School where the displaced people are camping is too small to host the large group, and demanded that the displaced people should be moved to another location.

The committee accused Water Resources Management Authority of sleeping on the job and demanded that its top managers should be sacked for having been bystanders as disaster unfolded.

“The tragedy in Solai is not a natural disaster. It is man-made borne out of Mr Patel’s negligence,” said Ms Susan Kihika, a member of the committee and senator of Nakuru.

ABOVE LAW

“Mr Patel must be held responsible. One week after the disaster, we have not seen his face. We have not seen him coming out to condole with the victims. He should not be allowed to walk away free,” she added, noting that Mr Patel has behaved as if he is above the law.

She challenged the government to disband the Water Resources Management Authority for failing to execute its mandate or have its managers fired.

Isiolo senator Fatuma Dullo questioned the whereabouts of Mr Patel and urged the government to prosecute him on the strength of the established precedence where owners of killer buildings have been held responsible.