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Gatundu North residents chase away workers from Sh24b dam project

By Gitau Wanyoike | April 13th 2021
The Sh24 billion project is being funded by the Government of Kenya and the China Exim Bank. [File, Standard]

Residents of Gatundu North in Kiambu County chased away construction workers from Sh24 billion Karimenu II Dam project, claiming they were yet to be compensated for land surrendered to the Government.

In their hundreds, the irate residents forced excavator operators to dig trenches at key points of entry and exit.

The group, thereafter, ordered all construction workers to leave the site.

During the Tuesday incident, police officers, who had been called to the scene, watched helplessly as the enraged crowd took control of operations.

The locals claim the Government was yet to compensate them for the surrendered parcels of land, collectively valued at Sh2.2 billion.

The land under dispute measures 383 acres.

Kamau Gathanji, one of the affected residents, said they were surprised to see a contractor on site, yet they hadn’t received any money from the State.

“We will pitch camp on this site until we are paid our money,” said Gathanji, vowing to oppose construction operations.

The group claims most of them have been reduced to destitution over lack of finances.

“After we surrendered our parcels of land to the Government, some of which were already developed, we took loans to acquire new land and build new homes. We are now unable to offset the loans because the State is yet to compensate us,” said Gathanji.

Another resident, Jane Wanjiru, said she had mobilised her entire family to take part in the protests.

Regina Wanjiru, another affected person, said the contractor had already completed a diversion tunnel and intake tower foundation, indicating more land would have to be surrendered yet the first group was yet to be paid.

“I’m unable to raise my children’s school fees. The Government should move fast and lift the financial burden off our shoulders,” said Wanjiru.

The locals want the National Lands Commission and the Athi Water Services, which is tasked with overseeing the construction, to act on their behalf in compensation dialogue.

A representative of Athi Water Services, who spoke to Standard Digital in confidence, said documentations for payments have been processed, and that the affected residents should be able to receive their dues “soon”.

Construction works at the Karimenu II Dam project began in 2019. When complete, the dam will serve the neighbourhoods of Thika, Juja, Ruiru and parts of Nairobi.

Previously, residents paralysed construction during the first phase of the project over compensation row.

The Sh24 billion project is being funded by the Government of Kenya and the China Exim Bank. The construction work is being supervised by the International Holding Corporation (AVIC) and Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute.

The 59-meter dam project has been scheduled for completion in June 2022.

In September 2020, the PS in charge of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation, Joseph Wairagu, pledged that the project would be complete three months to deadline.

At least 600 acres of land would have been surrendered to dams work, estimates show.

The mega project has three main components, including a dam, a large water treatment plant and a 67-kilometre raw and treated water pipeline.

Two terminal tanks will also be constructed in Ruiru and Juja.

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