Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Tharaka ward representative Muthengi Ndagara have asked the government to offer adequate compensation to people likely to be affected by the proposed Sh425 billion High Grand Falls Dam, which will be the largest project in Kenya after the standard gauge railway (SGR).
It is among six projects to be undertaken under Kenya’s and the UK’s new strategic partnership mainly targeting the agriculture and energy sectors.
But speaking yesterday during a funeral ceremony in Itunguni village, Tseikuru sub-county, the leaders dismissed plans to relocate people to a settlement scheme.
Mr Musyoka said though he supports the project, which is part of the Sh1.5 trillion Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor projects, the affected residents must be given adequate compensation.
“People must be given adequate monetary compensation so that they can choose where to resettle and not be forced into a settlement scheme,” said Mr Musyoka.
The two leaders said there was a proposal to settle people relocated from Gakombe in Tharaka ward to neighbouring Meru National Park and insisted that they will not allow such a move.
Mr Ndagara said the Tharaka community in Tharaka Nithi and Kitui counties will be the most affected by the project, with at least six locations in Tharaka constituency – Gituma, Maragwa, Kirukuma, Kamwathu, Kamarandi and Marimanti – to be completely or partially swallowed by water.
“If people must be relocated to allow construction of the dam, they must be handled with dignity and paid enough money that will help them settle in other places comfortably and not be forced to a settlement scheme inside Meru National Park,” Mr Ndagara said.
The leaders said there must be enough public participation so that locals who are against the project can be convinced of its importance.
Mr Ndagara said it would be inhuman for residents to be forced out of their ancestral land by the government in order to construct the dam.
The government of the United Kingdom recently agreed to finance the dam as one of six Sh500 billion projects to be undertaken under a new Kenya-UK strategic partnership mainly targeting the agriculture and energy sectors.
Work on the dam will start in 2024 and will take between three and five years. Some 400,000 hectares are targeted for irrigation and the dam will generate 1,000MW of electricity.
A feasibility study conducted in 2012 by the Tana and Athi River Development Authority (TARDA) indicated that at least 4,500 households would be affected in Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Kitui counties.
Tharaka Nithi leaders, led by Tharaka MP Gitonga Murugara, have demanded a fresh feasibility study in order to capture every detail.
Mr Murugara said many things had changed since 2012 and the data was not reliable, especially for adequate compensation.
“We are demanding monetary compensation and a fresh feasibility study must be conducted,” said Mr Murugara in an interview with the Nation.Africa last week. By Alex Njeru, NMG