Residents of Kitui and Makueni counties want the four components of the Sh62.9 billion Thwake multi-purpose dam re-arranged to guarantee food security in the region.
The dam – a Vision 2030 flagship project is planned for implementation in four main phases that include construction of a 77 metre high dam, hydro power generation, 34,600 cubic meters of water supply and a final phase of irrigating 40,000 hectares in the two counties.
It is designed to supply piped water for domestic use, serve the Konza techno city and adjacent towns, irrigate farms downstream in the two counties as well as generate 23 megawatts of hydro power.
However, local residents want the hydro power generation component which will see installation of three turbine generator sets deferred until the water supply and irrigation components are achieved.
According to Dr Daniel Kisangau, the secretary of Thwake land owners committee, Ukambani region desperately needs water for domestic and irrigation purposes and that they should be the first beneficiaries of the project.
Dr Kisangau, who is the Director of South Eastern Kenya University’s Wote Campus urged Ministry of Water engineers to reschedule the project implementation plan to deliver the irrigation component first.
He says the Seven Forks Hydro-power Dams along River Tana, which cuts across Ukambani, were abandoned before the irrigation phase was done but nothing has been revived three decades later.
“Our stand as a community remains that food and water are more basic than electric power. So after the dam is constructed, let us first irrigate the 40,000 hectares downstream before generating power for national grid” the don told the Nation yesterday.
The power generation component is the second phase of the project that is expected to take three years to construct but residents fear that the final irrigation phase may be abandoned by government once water and power are delivered.
His sentiments were echoed by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and MPs Boni Mwalika (Kitui Rural), Erastus Kivasu (Mbooni) and Daniel Maanzo (Makueni) who witnessed the signing of the contract between the ministry and Chinese firm Gezhouba Group on Wednesday.
DWARF THE SEVEN FORKS
Governor Ngilu, who mooted the project during her tenure as Water minister in President Mwai Kibaki’s regime said the project should solve the myriad food and water challenge which forced residents in the region to rely on relief food year in year out.
“Finally, the Kamba’s long held vision of ending the cycle of food shortages is coming to fruition and the water should be used for irrigation to achieve that dream” said Mrs Ngilu.
Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said their concerns to re-arrange the project phases will be addressed but urged Kitui and Makueni leaders to help the government deliver the project by preaching harmony and dialogue in addressing community concerns.
“It is certainly a giant water project that will transform the two counties and the country and already both the government and donors have made financial commitments so it is upon leaders now to mobilise the community to support the project” he said.
The CS said Thwake would dwarf the Seven Forks Dam built along Tana River both in terms of its size and output, making it one of its kind in the East and Central Africa.
The government is concluding resettlement of hundreds of families living at the confluence of Thwake and Athi rivers to pave way for the construction of the dam, predicted to create a vast reservoir once completed.
With its 70 metre high wall and a 10 kilometre long back flow along the two rivers, Thwake dam is predicted by water engineers to become one of Africa’s largest man-made lakes.
It is being financed jointly by the Kenya government and the African Development Bank with the government financing two thirds of the cost.