Residents eject contractor from Sh24bn dam site over compensation

Gatundu North residents say they will not vacate until their compensation is fully settled

In Summary

• compensation row threatens to derail construction of sh 24 billion dam in Gatundu North.

• residents eject contractor from site vowing to allow him back only when they receive their compensation.

Kiriko, Gathanji, Buchana and Kariminu villages residents during the protests in Gatundu North Constituency.
CONSTRUCTION OF GATUNDU MULTI-BILLION DAM FACES HALT AS RESIDENTS PROTEST UNPAID COMPENSATION Kiriko, Gathanji, Buchana and Kariminu villages residents during the protests in Gatundu North Constituency.

Construction of the Sh24 billion Kariminu II Dam in Gatundu North is hanging in the balance after residents ejected the contractor from the site over unsettled compensation.

The project is being funded by the government and the China Exim Bank and is being implemented through a joint venture between International Holding Corporation (AVIC) and Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute.

It is being built on 600-acre plot with the construction expected to end in December 2020 after 36 months of works according to the schedule. The contract was signed in May 2017.

But a row pitting the state and landowners over compensation is threatening to derail the project. The residents said they will not vacate their ancestral land until full compensation is done.

On Wednesday, aggrieved residents of Kiriko, Buchana, Gathanji and Kariminu villages stormed the site, carrying twigs and placards, and ejected the contractor and workers claiming that the government duped them over compensation.

They said only a few people have been paid. They said the government has failed to honour an agreement entered in February. 

“We agreed that construction won’t commence until everyone is paid. But the government has gone ahead and brought the contractor with his bulldozers on our land, yet we haven’t received compensation,” Nancy Njeri said.

She said they will not allow works to go on until they are paid. "They will only work on our dead bodies," she said.

They said Athi Water Services Board had last week instructed the contractor to start excavation works. The residents said it was unfair for the government to pay Sh4.7 billion in advance to the contractor before finalising land compensation.

Others said failure to clear the compensation have put them in a dilemma because they had nowhere to bury their relatives.

“It’s as if we have been imprisoned. The government wants us to move to pave way for the construction of the dam yet it does not want to compensate us," Henry Kiamni said.

During a meeting in Kiriko village in February, Water CS Simon Chelugui said a compromise had been reached between the government and the landowners following series of meetings by local leaders, a committee representing the residents and state officials.

Chelugui said the National Land Commission had prepared a compensation schedule for the first phase of the dam. he said Sh1.28 billion had been released for some 171 acres.

“I have already instructed Athi Water Services Board-the implementing agency-to work in collaboration with NLC and other stakeholders and expedite the compensation process,” Chelugui said.

But two months later, the beneficiaries are yet to receive the compensation.

The landowners said they will treat the contractor as an encroacher on their land.

“We will treat them as criminals encroaching on our land. We will only leave our lands once we receive full compensation,” Simon Muthee said.

The urged the state to expedite the payout to end the impasse and allow construction to proceed.

“We are not against construction of the dam. We are just agitating for our rights. We want to relocate from our homes in a dignified manner,” Muthee said.

Last year, a row broke out after the then acting NLC chairperson Abigael Mbagaya in a Kenya Gazette notice dated November 1, announced the commission had cancelled the compensation awards due to anomalies.

Mbagaya said there were errors and discrepancies in computation of the amounts.

Upon completion, the dam which will have a height of 59 metres with a 26.5 illion cubic metres storage capacity, will produce 70,000 cubic metres of clean water per day.

Eighty per cent of the water will supply Kiambu constituencies of Thika, Juja and Ruiru with the remaining 20 per cent to be supplied to Nairobi.

Edited by Peter Obuya