NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 10 – The government on Monday came out to dismiss claims by CORD leader and ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga that the 4th Nairobi Water Supply Project will cause desertification, once it is fully implemented.
In separate news conferences held in Nairobi, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and the Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe rallied to the government’s defence, in turn accusing Odinga of malice and engaging in what they termed as incitement.
Wamalwa said “the former PM might be suffering from selective amnesia” as he produced documents and newspaper cuttings as proof that Odinga launched the Sh6.8 billion project in September 2012.
He also termed allegations by Odinga claiming that the First Family has commercial interests in the project which is also known as Northern Collector Tunnel as “a big lie.”
Wamalwa and Kiraithe took turns in punching holes into remarks by the former PM, stating that that there’s nothing secretive about the Northern Collector Tunnel Project. They provided a court ruling delivered after Murang’a residents went to court and the project was stopped until the court matter was heard and determined.
They also produced copies of an Environmental Impact Assessment, National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) Licence to further discount allegations by the former PM that the concerns of the public and Murang’a County Assembly were not addressed.
Wamalwa urged Odinga against imputing improper motives against donor agencies who have partnered with the government to do development projects.
He described the World Bank -which is financing the programme – as a key partner adding that it conducts extensive studies before authorising such a project.
The former Prime Minister had earlier in a news conference, called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to halt the construction citing environmental concerns.
Odinga said that the construction of the project at the Aberdare Hill region is being undertaken without proper public participation.
He noted that former Environment and Natural Resources Minister, the late John Michuki had raised objection to the project just before he died. He is reported to have spoken to the people of Kanyanyaini Location in Kangema Constituency where he said: “You will only construct these tunnels over my dead body.”
The Opposition leader said he had taken up the issue after a section of Murang’a County residents petitioned him.
“The Murang’a County Assembly has since raised serious concerns about this project. The Assembly mandated its Water, Energy, Forestry, Environment Natural Resource and Cooperate Management Committee to investigate the project.
The Assembly adopted the Report of the Committee which resolved that the implementation of the whole project should be suspended until all matters of concern are fully addressed.
This conclusion was reached after considering only the effects of the project on Murang’a County. If one considers the project effects on the rest of the Tana River basin, then it is clear that this project is totally outrageous,” he stated.
Odinga said the Northern Water Collector Tunnel Project, would have dire effect on the people living on the Tana River Basin, Murang’a, Garissa and Ukambani regions.
“The World Bank needs to address itself to the people of Kenya and tell them why it approved the funding of a project and commenced release of the funds to the contractor before an environmental impact assessment was done, which was contrary to the World Bank Group Environment, Health and Safety Guidelines,” he said.
The former PM pointed out that the World Bank has classified it as Category A project; which means it is identified as one with potential for large-scale conversion or degradation of natural habitats and significant resettlement or other major social impacts, among others.
He stated that the project would see the regions turned into deserts five years after its commencement.
“The environmental impact report recognises the danger of the project and states that it may alter underground system. It will also lead to severe loss of water in Tana River and dry up streams in Garissa, Ukambani and Tana River delta. Murang’a, Garissa and Tana River will be deserts within five years of the project being launched,” he said.
The CORD leader accused the Jubilee Administration of carrying out the project in secrecy and failing to involve the people living along Tana River basin and other regions that will be affected by the project.
Odinga further claimed that the project goes against the Environmental Management Act and Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation since it poses great threats to the people.
“In Murang’a alone, 77 species of aqua life including seven special fish species would be extinct. Water flowing into Masinga Dam would also be affected,” said Odinga.
The project hoped increase water flow into Nairobi that would make the region prone to floods.
“This project would double water flowing to Nairobi yet the county is not being prepared to hold water of this level. Nairobi sewerage system can only hold 20 percent of the city’s waste with the rest ending up in Nairobi River. This project would increase water flow by 180 percent.”
13 other satellite towns all within a radius of 70km from the city set to benefit.
The satellite towns include Kikuyu, Ruiru, Juja, Kiambu, Githunguri, Mavoko, Ngong Township, Ongata Rongai, Thika, Gatundu, Limuru, Lari (Uplands and Kimende) as well as Tala-Kangundo.
The Ministry of Water, World Bank and the French Development Agency have crafted a master plan that will see other sources of water developed.
The government proposed to sink wells in Kiunyu and Ruiru areas, which is expected to increase water supply by 64,800 cubic metres per day.
Other phases will see the construction of a tunnel diverting Irati, Gikigie and Maragua Rivers, while the third phase will see Maragua and Ndarugu Dams built, among others.
Collectively, this is expected to increase water supply within the city by 654,048 cubic metres per day.