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January 22, 2019

Murang’a leaders, activists now oppose collector tunnel

Peter Mbugua, a human rights activist from Murang’a, during the press briefing on Saturday /JOHN KAMAU
Peter Mbugua, a human rights activist from Murang’a, during the press briefing on Saturday /JOHN KAMAU

Some Murang’a leaders and activists want the multi-billion shilling northern collector water tunnel project halted after a report showed it threatens the existence of three major rivers.

The report by ‘Save Aberderes Rivers’ organisation points out that the Sh6.8 billion World Bank-funded project may completely drain Maragua, Irati and Gikigi rivers in a few years.

The tunnel is meant to augment water supply to Nairobi and other areas. The report prepared by environmental expert Jimmy Kagoni indicates that the project was not implemented as designed because it is currently diverting nearly the entire rivers instead of tapping floodwaters.

Kagoni, who addressed journalists in company of other leaders and activists from Murang’a on Saturday, warned that the project, which is 80 per cent complete, will cause adverse effects on the region’s ecosystem.

“The tunnel will actually not be taking floodwaters from the rivers as initially planned, but will be draining them,” Kagoni said.

The environmentalist said the tunnel is not completely cemented and water has been seeping in through the ground, which actually drains the rivers.

He said that some 18 counties which depend on the rivers that draw water from the Aberderes water towers are at risk of turning into deserts should the project continue.

“Murang’a people were shortchanged to allow the project to continue. It was agreed that the implementers of the project would conduct afforestation of the Aberdares, as a water tower, to empower and preserve it, but it hasn’t been done,” Kagoni said.

He added: “The Aberdares is now more severe than the Mau forest since it has been left exposed and in less than 10 years, the place will be dry. What we are doing is creating a ‘Kalahari desert’ within our country.”

The environmentalist said the manner in which the project was approved was criminal in nature and the activists were considering seeking the intervention of global agencies like the International Criminal Court and UN Environment.

“As a matter of urgency, we are inviting the relevant committees of the Senate and National Assembly to come on a fact finding mission, and see the designs presented to Murang’a people and the actual work being carried out, and they will be shocked by the reality on the ground,” he said.

Samuel Mwangi, the ward clerk for Mathioya subcounty, said former Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa had entered into an agreement with Murang’a leaders that the government would spend Sh2.6 billion to provide water in the county as a condition for allowing construction of the tunnel. This is yet to be fulfilled.

“We were promised that other projects to supply Murang’a people with water would be initiated and would run simultaneously with the tunnel project but it was all a lie,” he said.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Peter Mbugua, a human rights crusader from Mitubiri ward in the drier zones, who said Murang’a people got a raw deal from implementers of the project. He said they backtracked on an agreement to supply the area with water.

He also said Murang’a people should get a percentage of revenue for the water taken to Nairobi as is the case with oil mining in Turkana.

Prior to the tunnel’s commencement about two years ago, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga said it would lead to serious environmental consequences.


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