Raila ‘right’ to oppose tunnel plan

The controversial Northern Collector tunnel being constructed at Makomboki in Kigumo./ALICE WAITHERA
The controversial Northern Collector tunnel being constructed at Makomboki in Kigumo./ALICE WAITHERA

A group of Murang’a professionals yesterday threw their weight behind Cord leader Raila Odinga’s claim the Northern Water Collector Tunnel will dry up county rivers.

They want the project scrapped and the government to build dams downstream to supply water to Nairobi.

They told the media the Athi Water and Services Board hurriedly awarded China Ghezouba Construction Company the tender to build the tunnel long way before getting the necessary approvals.

“The board awarded the contract for construction work in September 2014, but the Nema licence was granted in February last year,” Sammy Ndumbi said.

He spoke on behalf of professionals from Save the Aberdares Rivers group.

“We pointed out the tunnel will deplete water from rivers Irati, Gikigie and Maragua, whose water will be tapped in the first phase before it is extended to tap water from river South Mathioya, Hembe, Githugi and North Mathioya in the second phase.”

AWSB boss Malaquen Milgo dismissed the claims, saying the tunnel will only tap 40 per cent of flood water from the rivers near the Aberdares Forest.

“We have studied the rivers for 37 years and we know the normal flow, which will not be affected,” he said. Milgo also showed the Star billboards erected in Nairobi and Murang’a in 2012, calling for the public to participate in Nema’s hearings on the Sh6.8 billion project. He said the board has started several projects in Murang’a to ensure countywide water supply.

The Aberdares group members, including Murang’a engineers and villagers, said the AWSB had only released the environmental impact assessment report for phase one of the project, a sign they are either afraid or unwilling to tell the truth.

“They are afraid to tell Kenyans the project will turn Murang’a into a desert by permanently damaging the aquifers in the Aberdares, which in turn will result in dying up of springs, streams and rivers,” they said.

On October 10, Raila accused the state of implementing the “tunnels of death” project secretly.

The group said the contractor is using explosives to blast through rocks. “They have not also taken into consideration the fact that some areas in Murang’a are prone to landslides and we ask if the Athi Water and Services Board is afraid or unwilling to tell the public that they are exposing Murang’a to more landslides,” they said.

They said the Ndakaini Dam in which the abstracted water will be delivered to, fills to capacity within one- and- a-half-months and spills the rest of the season.