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February 23, 2019

Bhang cartels ‘behind decision to stop Mt Kenya water supply’

Environment and Forests CS Keriako Tobiko (centre in blue cap) and KFS Chief Conservator Emilio Mugo and other officials when they toured Mt Kenya forests on Wednesday.
Environment and Forests CS Keriako Tobiko (centre in blue cap) and KFS Chief Conservator Emilio Mugo and other officials when they toured Mt Kenya forests on Wednesday.

Meru MCAs yesterday condemned the government’s move to suspend extraction of water from Mt Kenya Forest rivers.

They said bhang cartels are behind the directive and said it was inhuman to give it without considering residents’ views and discussing with local leaders.

Abogeta West MCA DMK Kiogora, Abuthuguchi Central’s Patrick Muthuri, Timau’s George Collabo, Makasi Martin (Nkuene) and Mutembei Mbiuki want the suspension lifted within two days to allow supply to homesteads.

Five counties depend on Mt Kenya and Aberdare rivers. Residents have been hit by water shortages since the suspension was enforced on August 24 to allow an audit and eliminate illegal abstractions lowering river levels. Domestic animals suffer and irrigation has stalled, they said.

“Those destroying these intakes do so at night. They are thieves, criminals and plant bhang in the forest. There was no notice. No public participation,” Muthuri said.

Last week, residents of Timau, Ngusishi and environs protested against destruction of their intakes. They accused Environment CS Keriako Tobiko and his Water counterpart Simon Chelugui of “endangering our lives”.

They said the intakes were destroyed without notice. Intakes are repositories built to store water drawn from the rivers before they are supplied for use.

Chelugui had instructed the Water Resources Authority to destroy all illegal reservoirs abstracting water from rivers. Tobiko ordered that Kenya Forest Service officers in charge of the areas affected by illegal abstraction be sent on compulsory leave, pending disciplinary action and criminal investigation.

The two ministers have set up an inter-ministerial task force co-chaired by the National Water Resources director and the Environment secretary. The team is to present a report in four weeks.

The MCAs said the directive is a punishment to residents. They are being impoverished, the leaders said. They urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene.

“This is punitive. We’ll resist. Our communities invested heavily to pipe water from the forest. No one can access the forest or build intakes without a permit. There is a Sh100 million Canada-sponsored intake. We’ll sue because our lives are being ruined,” Kiogora said.

Muthuri said “my people” have suffered more than Sh500,000 losses. “What they want to hide is their illegal deeds so they continue planting bhang. Uhuru should tell us if this is a Jubilee agenda. Why is the governor and MPs silent as people suffer?” he asked.

Makasi said only intake supplying Kimitu Prison was not destroyed. He said 17 projects in his ward have been destroyed.

“Do they want us to live in Kimitu Prison to get water? No, over my dead body! The government never assisted my people to build intakes. They have up to Tuesday [today] to act, or we’ll incite residents to walk into those forests and connect the intakes. We fear disease outbreaks. Water is God given,” Makasi said.

Collabo said they will not allow a few selfish people to destroy lives.

Veronica Ciabakiao, 87, said life has become expensive and urged the government to be compassionate.

“I can’t see well. Looking at me, do you think I can carry a jerrican on my back? Can I work daily to earn a living? I have no one to fetch water for me. I don’t have a warm blanket either for cold weather,” she said.

“Hospitals are expensive and I can’t afford care. Now they are making water payable. Whom am I going to disturb? If I had the power to bring about change, I would do so today. I urge my MP Rindikiri Muruithania and Timau MCA Collabo to help.”

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