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Athi Water Works seeks Sh 1 billion to secure Karemenu II buffer zone   

Athi Water Works Development Agency (AWWDA) is seeking Sh 1.1 billion in land compensation for Gatundu residents to cede their land to pave the way for the construction of a fence around the 60-metre-high Karemenu II dam.

The agency says that despite the project being complete and operational, AWWDA has not been able to secure the 30-metre buffer zone surrounding the water reservoir thus hindering the construction of a Sh 50 million fence around it.

Speaking in Nyeri when he gave a status report on the project before the Central Regional Implementation Coordination and Management Committee (NGD-RICMC), AWWDA resident engineer, Engineer Kiprono Rop said that the delayed acquisition of the land and delayed construction of a fence has continued to expose the residents to looming danger should water from the dam spill over owing to the ongoing El-nino rains.

“We have the issue of acquisition of the buffer zone which is a 30 meters’ section. We require Sh 4.1 billion but in the immediate, we require Sh 1.1 billion to compensate the people around the dam so that they can relocate and we avoid the issue of fatalities,” said Eng Rop.

Residents of Kiriko, Gathanji, Gituamba, and Iruri villages had in June this year threatened to drain water from the dam over the delayed compensation for their land amounting to Sh 4.3 billion. The issue of contention has been the locals who were not on the original list of affected persons who were later requested to offer their land to accommodate the dam’s buffer zone.

Additionally, the residents had been promised instant compensation to help them relocate after the completion of the valuation of the property in February this year but they are yet to receive money from the National Land Commission.

“The issue is some people do not want to release a part of their land, they want to release the entire so that instead of getting a half or a quarter of their land, they want to sell their entire land and relocate,” said Eng Rop.

Karimenu II dam, which sits on 600 acres of land, was built at a cost of Sh24 billion. The project was jointly funded by the Government of Kenya and the China Exim Bank. The project was implemented through a joint venture between the International Holding Corporation and the Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute. Upon completion, the Karimenu II dam was expected to boost the water supply in Thika, Juja, Ruiru, and parts of Nairobi by providing 23,000 cubic meters of water per day.

By Saturday, the water levels had hit the 97 percent mark. According to Eng Rop, the agency has projected that the dam will spill over today (Sunday). Further, he said that six fatalities had already been recorded from the unfenced water project and urgent steps need to be taken by the government to avert future calamities from the unfenced water reservoir.

“We have had about six fatalities in this area simply because we were ready to fence off the dam but the land has not been acquired. We are doing community sensitization around that area and if we are allocated these funds, we should be able to fence off that dam and improve the security,” he stated.

By Wangari Mwangi

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