Flood warning issued after Masinga Dam overflows

Interior PS Raymond Omollo address Journalist when led other government officials at Masinga Dam to ascertain the situation following its Spills over. [Murithi Mugo, Standard]

The government has asked residents of Garissa and Tana River Counties to relocate to higher ground to avoid losses after Masinga dam started spilling owing to heavy rains.

Masinga dam is the main reservoir for the Seven Forks hydropower cascade. 

Speaking at Masinga dam in Machakos County, Interior Principal Secretary (PS) Raymond Omollo said the government has assembled a national emergency center that will coordinate emergency and response activities across the country. "We have teams on the ground led by the national government administration officers," he said. 

Mr Omollo said three regions of Central, Coast and Western are the worst hit by floods saying the government will release figures of the people affected and measures being taken to address the situation.  He warned residents in affected areas to be cautious of water-borne diseases. 

Energy PS Alex Wachira observed that the rains were both a blessing and a curse as for enhancing the reduction of power tariff due to enough water and also causing flooding downstream. 

He, however, noted the government has long-term plans to raise the wall of Masinga to increase its capacity of holding water and build a High Grand Falls Dam that will arrest water from Mutonga and Kathita rivers flowing into river Tana after Kiambere Dam. 

The PS said the high grand-falls will increase the country's power generation as the dam is expected to produce 700 megawatts.

"This increased water will also enhance farming activities at the Bura irrigation scheme apart from flood mitigation," he said. 

"We intend to raise the wall at Masinga dam by 1.5 meters to increase the holding capacity," Wachira said. 

KenGen Managing Director Eng Peter Njenga said the company has increased the power production of hydros to 461 megawatts during the day and 541 during the peak at night and can generate 600 megawatts maximum.

"Hydros is the cheapest form of electricity generation in the country and therefore the cost to the consumer through the off-take Kenya power will go down which is very encouraging but on the negative side people living along the riverbanks will be at risk," said Njenga. 

Garissa township MP Dekow Barrow urged the government to hasten the long-term measures while urging his constituents to move to higher ground before it is too late. 

"Our farmers downstream are completely discouraged by turn of events year in, year out as one of the farmers told me he will be out of business if the area floods again," Barrow said. 

The last time Masinga dam spilled was in 2019 when it reached 10.57.88 meters above sea level.  

According to KenGen, in September 2023, Masinga dam was at its lowest and the management halted power production but currently, it is at 1056.66 meters surpassing its full capacity of 1056.50 meters above sea level and the current water inflow is 326 cubic meters per second. 

The cascade also receives water from Thiba dam that flows into the Kamburu dam. 

From Masinga the water flows to Kamburu, Gitaru, Kindaruma and Kiambere dam that is at the end of the cascade and releases water to river Tana through Tharaka Nithi,Kitui, Garissa, Tana River and Lamu Counties before discharging to Indian Ocean.

After the Kiambere dam river Tana receives water flow from Mt Kenya in Meru County and Nyambene hills that causes massive flooding in the counties downstream.