, ISIOLO, Kenya, Sep 16 – Wario Galelo, 64, raises livestock downstream from the site of a hydroelectric dam which the Kenyan government plans to construct on the Ewaso Ngiro river in the north of the country.
Like many other local residents, he is furious about the dam, which will be located in Oldonyiro in Isiolo County and cost around Sh10 billion.
“It makes me very angry when I think of this dam that is only going to benefit a few individuals fronting the project,” Wario told IWPR. “But what about us… what about our children… our wives and animals? We are told the dam will generate electricity… what about our livestock? They don’t eat or drink electricity.”
Although the hydroelectric scheme will provide water and power to residents of a new city planned in Isiolo County, pastoralist communities in the area worry it will jeopardise their already precarious livelihoods by disrupting water flows on the river.
The Ewaso Ngiro river is a lifeline for the more than three million people who keep livestock along its banks.
People in Isiolo and in the neighbouring Samburu and Laikipia counties have already seen the river’s level drop because of drought and major irrigation projects. The waters are also polluted by industrial waste dumped upstream.
Wario says he lost more than 400 goats and nearly 100 cows and camels to drought last year, and fears that the dam would threaten his remaining stock of just 30 goats and one cow.
He says he will “fight to the end” to oppose construction of the dam.
“The government is concerned about the dam and other development projects more than the welfare of our people,” the father-of-four added. “We are ready to die to defend this river for the sake of our children.”