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