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40,000 households to be affected as Turkwel dam overflows

Water Resources Authority chairman Joe Mutambu (right) and Turkana County commissioner Muthama addressing the press on the looming overflow of Turkwel dam. Photo By Peter Gitonga

County executive committee member for Water, Environment and Mineral Resources Chris Aletia has said 40,335 households will be affected by the looming overflow of Turkwel dam. This means that 300,000 people will be affected by the spill over.
An alert from the meteorological department stated; “At 1148.03 metres above sea level this morning (Monday) Turkwel dam is currently 92.33 percent full. With the current rainfall being experienced and projected near normal rainfall in the catchment area around Mt Elgon during this October to December season, the dam is expected to fill up and overflow in November 2020.”
Addressing the press on Monday after a meeting with Water Resources Authority officials led by chairman Joe Mutambu and CEO Mohamed Shurie at the county commissioner’s office, Aletia said the stakeholders’ main priority is to raise funds to support families that will be affected by floods.
Aletia said Turkana south, Loima and Turkana central sub counties will be affected because river Turkwel traverses through these sub counties.
The CEC said according to a preliminary assessment conducted by the county government, 54 irrigation schemes, 23 health facilities, 72 water facilities like boreholes, 71 schools and 324 million livestock will be affected.
He added that it is projected that the calamity will require Sh2 billion but noted that the county government currently has raised Sh 200 million.
He added that the national and county government including agencies like Kerio Valley Development Authority and KenGen have come together to address the crisis.
“There is need for us to concretize our findings and fund raise together to support the people who will be affected,” said Aletia.
On his part, Water Resources Authority chairman Joe Mutambu who led the authority’s top officials including CEO Mohamed Shurie during a tour of the dam on Monday directed the residents living downstream and in riparian lands to relocate immediately to avoid the looming calamity.
Mutambu ordered residents living in riparian land and downstream of river Turkwel to relocate to higher grounds as it emerged that the dam will overflow in November.
“The dam structure is very firm and stable, our fear is the level of water which is coming to the dam. When the dam was constructed in 1986 and started operating in1991 the water flow was 18 cubic metres per second but today we are receiving 50 cubic metres per second,” he said.
Mutambu said the high recharge of the water is a phenomenon that happens after every 50 years.
“Every person should take precaution that there is a disaster looming. People have encroached the riparian area and we are asking them to move out with immediate effect. We are here for early warning. We do not want a situation where we wake up one morning and find that we have lost lives,” he said.
He said in the past five months the dam was remaining with 5 meters to spill over but as at yesterday it was remaining 1.7 metres to spill over,” he said.
He cautioned residents not to play politics with the issue saying the government was only keen to save lives.
Residents have been asking the government to show them other parcels of land where they can relocate to.
County commissioner Muthama Wambua said some of the people who were affected by floods last year in October had moved back to their former settlements in disregard to government warnings.
At the same time, Wambua said agencies should now channel their resources to supporting those who will be affected by the calamity instead of tours to the dam.
“We have received information that the dam will spill over, we need to channel our efforts and resources to mitigating the effects of the spill over instead of spending more resources visiting the dam,” he said.

By Peter Gitonga

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