- Locals want the Sh62 billion dam to produce water for domestic purposes and irrigation while the government insists on electricity.
- The dam will sit on the confluence of Thwake and Athi rivers and is touted as the greatest water reservoir in the country.
By Allan Tawai
Residents of Kitui and Makueni counties want the four components of the Sh36.9 billion Thwake multi-purpose dam re-arranged to guarantee food security in the region.
The dam, a Vision 2030 flagship project, is designed to be undertaken in four non-simultaneous phases: Construction of a reservoir, generation of power, installation of a water and sewerage system and building an irrigation system.
It is designed to supply piped water for domestic use, to serve the Konza techno city and adjacent towns, irrigate farms downstream as well as generate 23 megawatts of hydro power.
However, the government and residents are locked in a disagreement over what the proposed Thwake dam should produce first. The 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. But the government insists on electricity.
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.
“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” he told the Daily Nation.
Dr. Kisangau urged State engineers to reschedule the project implementation plan to deliver the irrigation component first.
He cited the seven folks hydro-power dams along River Tana which he says was abandoned before the irrigation phase was done in Ukambani with nothing being revived three decades later.
His sentiments were echoed by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, 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.
Governor Ngilu who introduced the project during her tenure as Water minister 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 Kambas 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 Ms. Ngilu.
The government signed a deal with China Gezhouba Group to begin working on the dam in a ceremony witnessed by leaders from Kitui, Machakos and Makueni counties.
On Friday, Water CS Eugene Wamalwa met the leaders and families that will be displaced then announced that construction begins next month.
“We want to come here in January with the President and his deputy to do the official ground breaking,” Mr. Wamalwa said at the meeting in Wote town, Makueni County.
He defended the prioritization of the electricity generation.
“Some of the power will be needed to pump water to higher levels for subsequent distribution,” he said. “A portion of the power will be required to run Konza Techno city and the rest will be injected into the national grid.”
The dam will sit on the confluence of Thwake and Athi rivers and is touted as the greatest water reservoir in the country.
“The two projects are interconnected. Once Thwake dam is completed, Konza Technocity project will take off,” the minister said.
Though governors Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) praised the government for the project, they insisted that it would be of little significance to the region if implemented as planned.
“The four phases should happen concurrently. Our people should not wait for decades to get its fruits,” said Dr. Mutua.
MPs Daniel Maanzo (Makueni), Erastus Kivasu (Mbooni), Boni Mwalika (Kitui Rural) and Rachael Nyamai (Kitui South) supported the county bosses.
They also insisted that the contractor should hire locals when work begins.
The dam project works will involve huge volumes of excavation where the two rivers meet, diversion of rivers to create spill ways, water treatment works and pipelines to take the bulk water to various destinations.