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Parliamentary committee to push for funding of Koru-Soin dam

The National Assembly Committee on Blue Economy, Water, and Sanitation has expressed concerns over the suspension of works at the 19.8 billion Koru-Soin dam in Kisumu and Kericho Counties.

Members of the committee who visited the site on the border of Kisumu and Kericho to ascertain the project’s status said the move was likely to delay the project which was set to be completed in 2027.

According to the Project Manager Eng. Julius Mugun, the contractor China Jiangxi International Kenya Limited and China Jiangxi International Economic and Cooperation Company Limited suspended works citing delayed payments.

The project fully funded by the Government of Kenya, he said, started on 27th August 2022 after nearly three decades of planning adding that the contractor was demanding Sh. 846.5 million before resuming excavation works.

“The contractor received an advance payment of Sh. 499 million which he has used over the last year to mobilize equipment and workers, set up a contractors’ campsite, and resident engineers camp, and geotechnical investigation for the dam site and construction materials. Excavation of the spillway is also 50% done,” he said.

The government, he said, allocated Sh. 100 million to the project in the 2022-2023 financial year budget against a proposed Sh. 3 billion making it difficult for the contractor to proceed as scheduled.

Eng. Mugun told the committee that the delay in disbursement of funds for the project was set to escalate the contract sum due to price adjustments and penalties.

He added that the government has not acquired the entire dam project area with over 45% of the affected farmers owed Sh. 2.2 billion in compensation.

Eng. Mugun said the project designed to control flooding in Nyando, irrigation, hydropower generation and supply of portable water in Kisumu and Kericho counties, he said must be supported to ensure it is realized within the set timeframe.

Funding from the government, he said, was not adequate to complete the project within the 60 months adding that the National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority (NWHSA) was exploring other avenues to raise funds to complete the project.

Mwingi North Member of Parliament (MP) Eng. Paul Nzengu questioned how the project was awarded without the implementing agency establishing how the funds were going to be raised to complete it within the timeframe.

“How do you go ahead to award a Sh. 19.8 billion project to a contractor without a clear roadmap on how the funds are going to be raised?” he questioned.

The move, he added, was a ploy to make the government lose money adding that even though the contractor has suspended operations he will still be paid.

Matuga MP Eng. Kassim Tandaza said it was unrealistic to achieve the project with the current funding model from the exchequer.

The allocation of Sh. 100 million annually to the project, he said will take 198 years to have it completed.

“The Ministry of Water has a budget of Sh. 5 billion out of which Sh. 3 billion is donor funds. Therefore, funding this project from this budget is untenable. We need to think outside the box and explore other alternatives,” he said.

Muhoroni MP James Onyango K’oyoo said the sudden change of tune towards the project was political, urging the government to delink the project from politics and release funds to ensure it is completed within the set timeframe.

The project, he added, was key in addressing floods in Nyando besides providing water for irrigation to boost food security and empower communities economically.

“What the people are saying is that they are taxpayers and this project must be completed as planned for their benefit,” he said.

Wajir South MP Mohammed Adow said abandoning the project would be a huge setback to the people of Kenya.

The project, once fully operational, he added, would have a huge impact not only on the people of Kisumu and Kericho but the entire country.

“This is a project that cannot be left to die. We will ensure that it comes to life to help the people of this area and the country at large,” he said.

Kuria East MP Marwa Kitayama who is also the Committee Vice Chairman said the project was of immense benefit to the country given its sustainability and economic outcomes.

Based on the data shared by the various state agencies, he said the Sh. 19.8 required to complete the project can be recouped within four years once the project is fully operational.

“We are seized of this matter now. It has come to our attention several times through members of parliament from this region who have been petitioning parliament to ensure that it is completed given the value it brings to the country,” he said.

The committee, he said, would retreat to prepare a report to table in parliament on the next course of action to jumpstart the project.

“This project can be delivered by the current administration given its ability to generate income to the exchequer,” he said. Lake Victoria South Water Works Development Agency (LVSWWDA) Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Christine Juma said the dam was critical in the provision of potable water in the area.

Besides irrigation and power generation, he said part of the dam water shall be treated and supplied in Kapsoit, Kaitui, Kapsitet (Kericho), and Katito, Muhoroni, Awasi, and Ahero (Kisumu).

“We have captured this in our Kisumu water master plan. It is in our interest to see that this project is realized so that we can supply portable water for our people,” he said.

He urged the committee to push for the funding of the project to ensure that it is completed on time to address the shortage of water in the two counties.

National Irrigation Authority (NIA) Western Schemes Manager Ken Ouma said the project was at the center of the scheme’s expansion plans.

NIA, he said targets to use the water to open up 10,900 hectares for rice farming in Ahero to help bridge the shortage of the commodity in the country.

This, he said, will see farmers in the area rake in Sh. 6 billion in a year from the venture besides contributing to food security.

The project, he added, will save the agency millions of shillings allocated to repair irrigation infrastructure destroyed by floods.

Moses Mutai, a representative of the affected landowners in Kericho County petitioned the committee to push for the compensation which has been pending for over two years.

Farmers, he said, have been restricted to use their farms affecting their livelihoods and income.

“We used to grow sugarcane to sustain ourselves but since the inception of this project we have been restricted on the use of our land yet it is taking ages to get compensation,” he said.

Charles Omuga, a representative of farmers from Kisumu County said the compensation was long overdue adding that the restriction on use of the farms has made it difficult for some of the affected parents to take their children to school.

He further urged the committee to engage the National Lands Commission to not only fastrack the process but to also review the rates.

“A lot has changed since the valuation was done. The price of land has also gone up and we want this to be factored in as they make arrangements to compensate us,” he said.

By Chris Mahandara

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