Standoff in Kiambu over project

Thursday, January 26th, 2023 04:00 | By
Furious residents chase away Athi Water Services officers yesterday after Ndarugu II Sh3 billion dam project fails to take off in Kiambu county. PD/Mathew Ndungu

The planned construction of Sh13 billion Ndarugu II Dam in Gatundu North, Kiambu County might not take off after persons affected by the project vowed not to cede their land for the construction works.

Yesterday, officers from Athi Water Services who had toured Kanjuku, Mwimuto, Watathi, Gathaiti and Gatei villages to allegedly conduct geotechnical survey and collect soil samples from various homes were chased away by angry locals who burnt tyres and barricaded roads bringing activities in the area to a standstill.

Local farmers and indigenous people who have lived and farmed in the area for generations insisted that releasing their traditional land for the project will get them curses as they have buried their forefathers and loved ones there.

The residents who had gathered to underscore their stand on the project forced Athi Water Services and local administrators out of the area while making anti-project chants and barricading roads.

Minutes after the government officers left, the locals got wind that they had used another route and were on an adamant mission to conduct the survey, a move that triggered fury that further heightened protests.

Leaders intervened

To protect their lives, the shivering officers present spent hours inside their fully closed vehicles until local elected leaders intervened.

Only one local chief among those in the entourage was allowed to address the charged crowd.

“This is our home. We use this land to farm and we have no alternative. We want to stay here, we have given the government our forest to build the dam there and not here,” John Mungai, a local said.

Also at the centre of the standoff was the reported arrest of their officials who had been summoned by detectives in Gatundu North over alleged incitement.

Residents held the government vehicles hostage until the three among them Njoroge Mwangi alias Muteti, George Ng’ang’a Muthua and John Kariuki were released.

In their statements after release, the officials vowed to stay put despite ‘intimidation by government officers’ insisting that they will not allow construction of the water project as it might render Gatundu North constituency uninhabitable due to cold and collapse of their agricultural activities.

“I will not be cowed by anyone. I will stand my ground until justice is served to our people. Why the government is forcing the project down our throat is a question for another day but we commit to stay still because they have other areas to put up the project,” said Wamuthua.

“Let the government build 70 more prisons and put all of us there if they want to build the dam but when we are here, we will not allow the project,” stated Muteti.

Mitigate drought

Ndarugu II dam is the pioneer water project among the 100 mega dams that President William Ruto’s administration is riding on to mitigate the raging drought occasioned by shortage of rain.

The government says the dam will be used to conserve water for use in homes and farms during dry seasons.

Should the government manage to convince the affected persons, the 50m height water project will be the first one to be implemented before the other dams are built and is scheduled to boost water supply to various towns in Kiambu and Nairobi Counties.

But the project that Water Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome recently insisted must be up is facing headwinds after locals sustained their claims that it would kill their economic activities owing to environmental degradation.

On her side, Water Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome insisted that while the government will not take away property from residents before the two parties agree on payment terms, the project must continue.

Speaking after she inspected Karimeny 2 dam progress recently, Wahome  however stated that the mega project was scaled down so that it does not affect too many people from downstream.

“The dam will only affect about 200 people, a small number that will be able to compensate following government rates and guidelines. Nobody will take away your property before we agree on how much but also, we don’t want to create barriers to development because this is not an individual project. We appeal to you that you cooperate and we don’t want brokers and speculators inciting locals against the project,” said Wahome.

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