Water CS expected before House probe team on Solai Dam tragedy

July 2, 2018 7:57 pm
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Immediately after the tragedy, Water and Irrigation Secretary Simon Chelugui said all dams will be inspected to ensure they do not endanger lives/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 2 – Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui is on Tuesday expected before the ad-hoc Senate Committee which is probing the Solai Dam Tragedy.

The CS is expected to give a report of the measures and steps the government has taken to prevent a repeat of the Solai Dam collapse that claimed 47 lives and left hundreds displaced.

Chelugui had ordered a nationwide inspection of all dams to ensure they do not endanger lives after it emerged that some dams were built during colonial times.

His appearance comes barely a week after the Senate team kicked out officials of the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) among other safety regulatory agencies from its sittings after they failed to give details of measures they have taken to prevent a repeat tragedy.

The regulatory agencies drew the wrath of Senators Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni) and Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi) after they said they were planning to conduct a forensic audit and comprehensive environmental impact assessment, two months after the Solai tragedy.

The Senators were incensed by admission of the three agencies that the dam – which is among the largest capacity privately owned dam in the country – did not have an environmental impact assessment test because there was no enabling law when it was constructed in 1980.

The committee further learnt both WRMA and NEMA had not acted on residents’ complaints on the safety of the dam which was built on a hill.

This emerged even as a multi-agency report released by the Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government revealed that the 200,000 cubic metre dam started leaking in 2016 but no attempt was made to rectify the situation.

The Senators were disappointed that two months after the tragedy, neither WRMA nor the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation (NWCPC) have investigated the cause of dam failure besides establishing whether the dam had been legalised for construction.

Officers from NWCPC and WRMA had in May been directed to visit the dam site to make final observations that should include field tests on materials used during construction to confirm their suitability.

During the hearing held last Thursday, the committee made an appeal to the Kenya Defence Forces to make public their technical evaluation of the dam.

The Committee through its chairman Kilonzo Jnr was reacting to remarks by Defence CS Raychelle Omamo who said that the report by the military’s Disaster Response Unit (DRU) is usually an internal affair but offered to make available the operational version of the report.

“Madam CS, if you were here during our last meeting you would understand that the military is all we have left. In fact we are living under the mercy of the military so I don’t understand why the most professional, skilled outfit we have would not want to share what they have,” said
Kilonzo Jnr.

The CS had earlier told the Senators that the Department of Defence has to step in to support civilian agencies during such crises because the agencies have failed to perform their mandates.

Omamo backed the Senators’ call for a revision of disaster management and co-ordination laws to put under one unitary structure that will also have the capacity of acting on early warning information.

They observed that most government agencies were reactive in performing their mandates.

“The only reason why we are here is because you cannot pin-point which one or who dropped the ball; we need a law that will provide structure on how to deal with such inadequacies,” noted the CS.

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