Mt Kenya governors warn State agency of disruption in water supply

Mt Kenya region Governors, from left Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri) Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka-Nithi) Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua) and Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) during a press conference in Nairobi. [David Njaaga/Standard]

Mt Kenya governors want a State agency to restore water connections in the region or risk having them mobilise residents to re-open them.

The governors accused the Water Resources Management Authority (Warma) of disconnecting water in the area last week, saying the action had caused a crisis in the region.

Last week, Warma officials who accompanied Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko and his Water counterpart Simon Chelugui suspended abstractions in Mt Kenya to allow for an audit and to eliminate illegal abstractions that have lowered river levels.

The two CSs set up an inter-ministerial task force that is expected to present a report in four weeks. The team is co-chaired by Director of National Water Resources Sammy Mburu and Environment Principal Secretary Susan Mochache.

Heavy rains

The CSs said despite the country receiving heavy rains in April, May and June, several key rivers were already experiencing low flows.

Governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua) and Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri) said residents who depended on rivers from Mt Kenya and the Aberdare Ranges had been forced to go without water following the suspension of all abstractions.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Council of Governors (CoG) meeting in Nairobi yesterday, they said Warma’s action was endangering residents' lives.

“Water is life and we can’t continue living without water. We need water restored immediately or we will lead our people to the zones where the water has been disconnected and restore it ourselves,” Mr Kiraitu said.

Ms Waiguru said they would not go to court to seek a solution to the crisis because it would drag on despite the risk of an outbreak of diseases.

Mr Kimemia termed Warma’s action illegal and primitive.

“My people are now threatening to destroy Sasumua Dam, which supplies water to Nairobi. They say they can’t die for lack of water when their water goes elsewhere,” he said.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Water Resources Authority (WRA) Tana Catchment Area Regional Manager Bernard Omuya said a meeting had been planned between Mr Chelugui, Mr Tobiko, and leaders from the Mt Kenya region today.

The key agenda, he said, was to solve the water crisis.

"I do not want to preempt what will be discussed but what is certain is that Government policies and regulations must be followed. We live in a water-stressed country and we have to manage the little that is available so that everyone can access water," he said.

For the past weeks, officers from the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and WRA have been enforcing an order by the Ministry of Water to disconnect intakes drawing water from rivers, throwing communities around Mt Kenya and the Aberdares water towers into crisis.

More than 39 water intakes have been disconnected along rivers Sagana and Thegu, which originate from Mt Kenya Forest.

Speaking to The Standard in Nyeri as officers disconnected some of the pipes in the area last week, KFS acting Commandant Wilson Leboo said a recent survey around Mt Kenya and the Aberdares had shown more than 660 abstraction intakes exist in rivers originating in the two ecosystems.

Operation halted

In Kirinyaga, an operation to cut off all water intakes in Mt Kenya Forest was halted last week after it emerged that most of the water was used in hospitals and boarding schools.

Water supplies in the county are sourced from rivers Nyamindi, Thiba, Kiringa, Rutui, Mukengeria, Rundu and Rwamuthambi, whose only source is Mt Kenya Forest.

Speaking at a press conference in Nanyuki yesterday, officials from Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership said more than 30,000 households had been affected following destruction of over 20 intakes in the Mt Kenya water tower.

Among the permitted water projects whose intakes have been disconnected along rivers Ontiriri, Sirimon, Timau and Tereswan are Kanyuru, Kithaene, Miarage, Murimi, Kithima kia Munyi, Mlima A and Mlima B.

The partnership’s co-ordinator, Stanley Ngumba, said residents in Laikipia, Meru and Nyeri counties who depended on the destroyed intakes had gone without water for two weeks.

Leaders from Meru are also planning to seek legal redress over the matter.

During a press conference in Meru yesterday, MCAs said the disconnections would affect economic growth in the county since most farmers got water for irrigation from the forest.

In a joint statement read by Abogeta West MCA Dennis Kiogora, the leaders accused Tobiko and Chelugui of failing to engage the public before disconnecting the intakes.

Report by Protus Onyango, Allan Mungai, Munene Kamau, Jacinta Mutura, Darlington Manyara