The Tharaka Nithi County Development Implementation Coordination Committee (CDICC) has declined to support a proposed handing over of some questionable irrigation projects by the National Irrigation Board (NIB) to the county government.
In a letter presented to the Tharaka Nithi County Commissioner (CC), Ms. Beverly Opwora by the NIB resident Engineer, Raymond Murungi during a CDICC meeting on Wednesday the board proposed to handover several water projects to the county government.
“It appears very queer that this letter dated 4th of November 2018 is finding its way into my hands a whole month down the line and is proposing the handing over of water projects one of which this committee has raised serious reservations over its viability,” said the CC after reading the letter.
Although CDICC site visits to some of the irrigation projects undertaken by NIB has proved that they are successful and benefiting the communities intended, two site visits to Kanthanje water pan that is indicated to benefit 70 farmers has proved it to be more of a burden than a blessing to the intended beneficiaries.
While in their report to the CDICC, NIB indicates that the water pan is 100% complete the two site visits have proved otherwise.
During the visit the CDICC confirmed that the water project is yet to collect meaningful water despite the heavy rains being experienced in the area. The absence of a representative from the National Irrigation Board and the contractor despite invitation by the CDICC secretary further raised eyebrows among the members present.
The committee members who visited the site further confirmed that the water pan has no outlet and the neighbouring community cannot access the little collected water for either their livestock or domestic use.
Some members of the committee expressed utter shock on realizing the danger that would befall the girls of Kanthanje Secondary School whose dormitory is just below the said water pan were it to be filled with water.
The Tharaka Nithi County Police Commander, Charles Mbatu described the water pan as a ‘time bomb’ that could long have exploded and caused a catastrophe had it been able to collect water to its brim.
“The water pan is a threat to the neighbours especially the girls who sleep in the dorm right at the front of the water path had by any chance the pan collected sufficient water. It is unfortunate that the contractor left the lower bank of the pan so weak yet it should be the strongest,” said the Police Boss.
The Kanthanje Secondary School Deputy Principal,
Ms. Jane Mugambi expressed disappointment over the water pan that she had hoped would help the school irrigate land and possibly keep some dairy cows.
“We were really pleased to receive the news that we would soon benefit from a mega water pan and were eager to utilize the water for irrigation since our school is a victim of frequent prolonged droughts but as you can see the project has ironically turned into a threat to the lives of our girls,” lamented the deputy principal.
The construction of the water pan has also encroached to neighours pieces of land besides closing an access road to the only health centre in the area and complaints by local residents and the Catholic Diocese of Meru that is the sponsor to the three institutions next to the pan have fallen on deaf ears.
According to the County Director of Environment, Joseph Kamau, no environmental impact assessment was done prior to the construction of the said pan and therefore the contractor was not issued with a National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) certificate to proceed.
By David Mutwiri