We prefer cash compensation not land; likely High Grand Dam evictees speak up


Tharaka residents likely to get displaced by the proposed High Grand Falls Dam are yet to get details of their resettlement. 

That has been causing discomforts ahead of the commencement of the project scheduled next year, according to a recent official communication.

The idea of the mega Dam, which was always in government books, finally took shape in 2009 during President Mwai Kibaki tenure. It is part of the bigger Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Corridor project (Lapsset).

After a rigorous procurement process, the tender was awarded to a British entity, GBM Engineering Consortium after beating six other international construction companies, five of them from China.

However, the National Irrigation Board (NIB) was put on the spot over cancellation of the tender and accused of mishandling of the tendering process with the intention to award it to another firm without following due process.

The Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) concluded that NIB was hell-bent on swinging the tendering process in a particular way.

The PPARB determined the matter five times, all in favour of the GBM Engineering Consortium before the case went to court. 

The final determination is yet to be made.

But the plan remains. When completed, the firm to build the dam and power station will operate it for 20 years before transferring it to the Government of Kenya.

The power station will be built at Kibuka Falls across the Tana River at the intersection of Tharaka Nithi and Kitui counties. 

Initially, the project was estimated to cost Sh200 billion but two months ago, the Ruto adminidtration put it at Sh425 billion.

The project will be financed by the United Kingdom government, with completion expected to be between three to five years.

If the initial plan is retained, the dam will create a lake with a surface area of 165 square kilometres (41,000 acres) holding 5,600,000,000 cubic metres of water and will swallow vast land of Tharaka Nithi and Kitui counties.

The dam is projected to provide water to irrigate 250,000 hectares of farmland, mostly in Tana River County.

Even after 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 the three counties, it was still not clear where exactly.

However, report showed that chunks of at least six locations in Tharaka constituency would be swallowed. These are Gituma, Maragwa, Kirukuma, Kamwathu, Kamarandi and Marimanti.

Even with the numbers, lack of communication on relocation and compensation programme has been causing unease in the area around Kibuka Fall.

Initial plans proposed by TARDA, showed intention to relocate those affected without monetary compensation.

On a tour of Kibuuka sometimes back, former Tarda boss Mr Steve Githaiga said that monetary compensation was out because people who were given money during the construction of the Masinga and Kiambere dams live miserably as squatters.

The Mutonga Dam proposal was to establish a settlement scheme for the affected people in other areas and also hand them an acre of irrigated land for farming.

Some were to be moved to Tana River and others to Kitui counties but local leaders have opposed the plan.

Tharaka Nithi County leaders want those displaced to be settled in the less populated areas of Tharaka North Sub County and especially around Kathangacini and Kanjoro locations.

With the proposal, speculators rushed to buy hundreds of acres of land in the two locations for as low as Sh10,000 per acre targeting to reap from government compensation.

But their expectations may not yield.

Most residents prefer monetary compensation so that they choose where to resettle.

Most residents have threatened to block any plan to move them without monetary compensation.

Echoing residents, Tharaka Member of Parliament Gitonga Murugara, Tharaka MCA, Muthengi Ndagara and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka have also been quoted insisting that those to be relocated must be given monetary compensation.

The leaders have also rejected plans to relocate project evictees in Gakombe of Tharaka ward to a settlement scheme to be established in the Meru National Park.

Recently, Tharaka Nithi County elected leaders led by Governor Muthomi Njuki held a consultative meeting with Interior and National Government Coordination Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki and later with President William Ruto. The dam was among the several issues discussed.

Following the meeting, MP Murugara expressed confidence that government will handle the residents with dignity during relocation.

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