Construction of the biggest dam in Kenya is set to kick off at Kibuka falls on River Tana.
The proposed 165 square kilometre High Grand Falls Dam, that will cost Sh150 billion, is expected to hold over 5.6 billion cubic metres of water that will be used to irrigate over 250,000 hectares of land and produce over 700MW of electricity.
The dam will also help to control flooding in the Tana delta that displaces thousands of people every year.
Speaking on Saturday when he visited Tharaka accompanied by Parliamentary Committee on Implementation and the Tana and Athi River Development Authority (TARDA) team, the Planning Principal Secretary Saitoti Torome said work would start soon.
Mr Torome said Kenya had finalized procurement process with China State and they would soon embark on resettlement process.
“The dam will greatly boost the economy of this country which is the major agenda for the Jubilee government,” said Mr Torome.
He said the High Grand Falls Dam is part of the Sh1.5 trillion Lamu Port and Lamu Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (Lapsset) projects that are set to help Kenya achieve the Vision 2030.
The construction is expected to take six years, with at least 4,500 households affected in the three counties.
The PS also assured the locals that the project will greatly benefit them with electricity, water for irrigation, employment among other benefits.
“This project is going to improve the living standards of the locals especially in food security and supply of electricity,” he said.
Mr Steven Githaiga, the TARDA Chief Executive Officer said the contractor had set aside Sh6 billion for resettling residents who will be affected in Tharaka-Nithi, Kitui and Embu counties.
He noted that according to the initial plans, those who will be displaced in Tharaka were to be resettled in Tsekulu in Kitui County but the local politicians declined their people to be moved to a different county.
He said the displaced will not get monitory compensation.
“Many people who were compensated with money during construction of Masinga and Kiambere dams live miserably as squatters,” said Mr Gaithaiga.
He said the people will be moved into settlement schemes where everyone will be constructed a permanent house connected to electricity, piped water and be also given irrigated land for farming.
He said the government will also construct schools, hospitals and police posts among other social amenities at the settlement scheme.
The Parliamentary Committee on Implementation, Mr David Gikaria, who is also the Nakuru Town MP said government should fast track release of Sh200 million for public sensitization to ensure that people are aware of the importance of the project to them and the entire country.
Chuka/Igambangombe MP Muthomi Njuki said the feasibility study that was conducted in 2012 could not be used because there are various social-economic changes that have taken place since then.
“A new feasibility study will be able to give the current situation for better compensation,” said Mr Njuki.
He also asked the TARDA officials to make sure that the locals are informed on the progress of the project.