The Construction of the Thiba Mega Dam in Kirinyaga County has begun taking shape just less than a year upon commencement.
The Sh.19 billion project is expected to be completed in 45 months but its Manager Eng. Stephen Mutinda says the work could be completed much earlier.
He said all factors remaining equal and according to the work plan, the construction could take about 36 months to complete.
The Manager said so far, 20 per cent of the construction works has been attained adding that were it not for the delay by the Treasury to issue the contractor with an import duty exemption certificate on time, much more would have been realised.
“We moved to the site on March 1 last year but the Treasury took up to December 13, to issue us with the import duty exemption certificate for our heavy duty construction equipment which had been held at the port of Mombasa due to that vital document resulting to the delay into venturing in the major works,” he said.
The manager said with the clearance of the equipment from the port now almost complete and most of the machinery already at the site, work was progressing on as scheduled.
Late last year the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture visited the dam site where it was informed about the delay in clearing of the construction equipment at the Port.
The Committee led by its Vice Chairman, Emmanuel Wangwe while visiting the site on December 8 last year promised the contractor it would intervene immediately.
Among those in the Committee was the Mwea MP, Kabinga Wachira whose rice farmers will benefit from the multi-billion projects being undertaken with funds from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the government.
During the visit, Wachira pleaded with the contractor to see if he could apportion some piped water from the dam to be supplied to the farmers who depend on untreated drinking water from the irrigation canals.
“True to the Committee’s promise, the matter was resolved on December 13 after which we started moving with speed to start clearing the heavy duty equipment,” Mutinda said yesterday.
At the site, excavation of the top soil is ongoing while crashing and blasting of stones being mined from the ground being undertaken.
“Within the next few weeks we should be able to divert the Thiba River in order to start the real excavation from the dam area which comprises of heavy engineering activities,” he said.
The Germany based Strabag International Construction Company won the lucrative tender upon prequalification and according to Mutinda; the firm has the capacity to deliver a quality project within the specified time.
When completed, farmers who have since establishment of the Mwea Irrigation Scheme in 1956 depended on rain water for their rice will be able to grow two crops per year.
The dam with a 15 million cubic litres of water will be able to store water for the farmers to use even when there are no rains, according to Mutinda.
The National Irrigation Board (NIB) has contracted the Germany firm on behalf of the Kenya government in an effort to improve the country’s food security.
Already the Board has started a 12 acres pilot project for the two year season crop.
The Scheme Manager, Innocent Ariemba says the purpose of the pilot planting project was to sensitise the farmers ahead of the completion of the mega dam.
Once successful, rice production at the scheme will double from the current 80,000 metric tons
Ariemba says they will also attempt to experiment on the possibility of growing a third crop since water will be available when required by the farmers.
Farmers however, want the government to stop the importation of cheap rice from the Far East which unscrupulous traders adulterate with the pure Mwea Pishori.
By Irungu Mwangi