NAIROBI, Kenya, March 2 – Conservationists have raised concern over the construction of a new Tana River diversion which they said would negatively affect local communities living there.,
Under the banner of Kenya Wetlands Forum the environmentalists on Monday said the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation and Coast Water Services Board did not conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment prior to the construction.
“There are communities living along the shores of the river, they have been put into an island and what happens is that when there is too much rain upstream they will all be washed away,” said Youth for Conservation Director, Steve Itela.
He said instead of removing the silt that had hampered normal flow of the river, the authorities cut a new one kilometre stretch to bypass the point where the river had naturally changed its course.
“This was a project that was done in response to an emergency that took place in August last year. If an emergency takes too long to attend to – between August 2008 and today, then it is obsolete,” he stated.
“So if you want a long term plan then it is good to follow the right procedures.”
Africa 21st Century Development Organisation Executive Director, Patrick Muraguri accused the government of not respecting laws it had put in place.
“So if you say that there should be a permit from the Water Resources Management Authority before you interfere with the river they (government) are not getting the same permit, when they (government) say there should be an environmental impact assessment and they are not doing it, then that is lack of consistency and to us we think it’s wrong,” Mr Muraguri said.
He added that there was a small tribe known as the Malakoti living on either side of the river and have nowhere else to go if they were displaced.
“You could say you are saving 41,000 people downstream but then what happens to these few people?” he posed.
“They are also Kenyans and they have a right.”
Tana River naturally changed its course at Matomba village in August last year due to siltation of the former original channel.
“The negative effect of this natural diversion is already evident downstream such as lack of domestic water for homesteads, schools, dispensaries, livestock, farming and the fishing industry of more than 41,000 community members downstream,” Mr Itela said.
The National Water Conservation and Pipeline Cooperation had the option of desiltation to attain the appropriate gradient to allow the flow revert back naturally or construct a new river diversion channel to connect headwaters to the original channel (but by passing the current deviation point.)
The environmentalists estimated that it would cost about Sh5 million to de-silt compared to the Sh25 million used to construct a diversion.
They demanded the immediate stop of the river diversion until an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment had been done and recommended that future development projects in the Tana Delta should only be undertaken after a participatory management plan had been developed and operationalised.
They also called for the enactment of the National Wetlands Policy and other legislations that would guide future developments of the wetlands.