Thiba Dam is now at half capacity, with seven million cubic metres of water already impounded.
The dam, which has a holding capacity of 15.6 million cubic metres, is currently pumping two million cubic metres of water to the Mwea rice irrigation scheme.
Officers from the National Irrigation Board (NIB) led by Engineer Charles Muasya said the dam, whose construction works commenced two years ago and was completed in June, had cost taxpayers Sh400 million less than the initial projected cost of Sh8.2 billion.
While briefing commissioners from the Public Service Commission of Kenya (PSCK) who toured the project yesterday, Mr Muasya explained that 24-hour shifts, enhanced supervision and introduction of work on Sundays and public holidays enabled them to complete the project ahead of time at a cost of Sh7.8 billion.
“The project was supposed to be complete by August this year but it was completed two months to its timelines and saved taxpayers Sh400 million, money which will now be used for other projects,” Andrew Wakahiu, Secretary of the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) said.
The project is expected to increase the area under irrigation from 25,000 acres to 35,000 acres of rice crop per season.
This will be coupled with the introduction of double-cropping, which will put 70,000 acres of crop under irrigation every year, a move that will see rice production increase from 114,000 to 200,000 metric tons.
Mr Wakahiu noted that the net effect of this project will help reduce the gap between production and demand of 600,000 metric tonnes.
“The double cropping brought about by this project means more income in the local economy from Sh10 billion to Sh16 billion in a year, and will create additional 100,000 jobs leading to a cumulative 350,000 jobs a year,” said Wakahiu.
The dam sits on 560 acres of land. Mr Wakahiu announced that all the locals who live in the area and had been moved to pave way for the construction have been compensated.
With the completion of the dam, engineers are now concentrating on the construction of canals to the new 10,000 acres of irrigation land and simultaneously replacing canals in the old system estimated to cover about 40 kilometers.
“The old canals in the irrigation scheme were bursting and overgrown with weeds and this affected the water flow efficiency,” noted Mr Wakahiu. PSCK commissioners said they were impressed by the project, describing it as economically transformative.
Commissioners Mary Mwiandi and Andrew Muriuki said it was their duty to ensure that leaders use public funds for the benefit of Kenyans in a bid to uplift their living standards.
“We want to understand how government implements its projects to the community and their impacts, and we are happy to report that the project will put smiles to the locals,” said Ms Mwiandi.
She said the commission was citizen-centered and was keen on ensuring that funds meant for development meet their target.