Sh.1.9 billion Water Project risks collapse

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The  fate of  Sabor  Water Project, funded by the Belgian government at a cost of Sh.1.9 billion to solve the problem of  water scarcity in Iten, Tambach and the surrounding areas in Elgeyo Marakwet County now hangs in the balance.

The  project, which  would have given water to over 64,000 households in the region, risks collapse after the National Irrigation Board (NIB) started another project upstream.

The  Iten Water and Sanitation Company (ITWASCO) MD, Paul  Yator  said he was forced to write to the National Environment  Management Authority (NEMA) to intervene and stop the Lower Sabor irrigation project from continuing due to its effects on  the Sabor water project.

“Apart  from Sabor, there  is also the Kabukto water project all taking water to neighboring UasinGishu County but the former has a bigger impact on the initial water project,” Yator said.

“Though the NIB project is called Lower Sabor, it is situated upstream and has affected the flow of water to the Sabor  dam. If it is not stopped, then the Sh.1.6 billion earlier project may end up becoming a white elephant,” Yator said.

Duncan  Osale  from the NEMA county office said they had written to their head office over the complaints received from  ITWASCO and temporarily stopped the project awaiting further directions from Nairobi.

According  to Nema, the project did not provide an Environmental Impact Assessment report which is mandatory for such an  undertaking.

Yator  said due to the interference, the Sabor dam has not been getting water duringthe just ended dry spell which
culminated into a serious water shortage forcing the company to embark on a rationing programme.

He  added that while the dam is supposed to provide water throughout the year, currently they only get water during the  rainy season when water levels from river Charama rise.

“The  Sabor   water  project  was meant to provide clean drinking water to residents in a bid to eliminate water related diseases, but  with the shortage being experienced, then this will not be possible and people will result into taking unclean  water,” he said.

The  MD  said before construction of the irrigation scheme they were supplying 4,280 cubic metres of water but since  the  construction began they have been getting 180 cubic metres which is not sufficient even for the staff residing at the  treatment project.

This, he said, has seen their revenue base drop to Sh.1 million per month while they are supposed to pay Sh.700, 000 as electricity bills per month. “The Sh.300, 000 which remains is not enough to pay salaries to staff thus we are operating at a loss,” the MD lamented.

He  added this goes against one of the objectives of the project which was to provide for increased revenue base for the sustainability of the project.

The cry of the MD is supported by area residents and leaders who are calling on the national government to intervene and ensure that their source of water is not interfered with.

A resident Jean Jerono said just before the rains started, they were being forced to buy water at Sh.20 per a 20 liter

container which was too expensive for most of them especially tenants living in plots where there are no boreholes.

“Apart  from  that, we  were not  sure of  the quality  of  the  water we were buying for drinking but we were left with no  option but to use the water,” she said.

Area  governor, Alex  Tolgos  is also calling on the ministry of Water and Irrigation to immediately stop the two projects  taking water to Uasin Gishu until the weir (small dam) at the Sabor water project is expanded to a big dam to accommodate  more water.

He  is  also calling on Rift  Valley Water Services Board which was given the mandate to implement the project to surrender  Sh.300 million which was allocated to the project but which was diverted to a water project in Nakuru in the name of  Sabor-Iten-Tambach water project.

The  County Executive Committee Member (CEC) in charge of Water and Environment, Abrahama  Barsosio said Iten town has not  only been elevated to international status, but has also been upgraded to a municipality with World Bank funding it’s  upgrading to the tune of millions of shillings.

“As you are aware, Iten town has just been elevated to a global heritage location by the International Association of
Athletics Federation in addition to becoming a municipality and therefore with such recognition we expect to see a lot of  development in future which cannot occur without water,” the county executive said.

Barsosio added that the county had found a partner who will invest in the expansion of the Sabor dam in a bid to store  more water to ensure that all residents in Iten and its environs get access to piped water.

He said the county had introduced far reaching reforms in the water sector which included launching asoftware for billing, which will do away with paper bills whereby customers will get messages directly into their phones.

“All this will be made possible if the Sabor dam source is left intact. I also appeal to residents to protect its
catchment area through planting of indigenous trees,” he said.

By  Alice  Wanjiru

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