By Job Weru and James Munyeki
Laikipia, Kenya: Local tourism faces a threat if the Government continues with its plan to build a Sh63 billion hydropower project, say ranchers.
They want the Government and other development partners involved in plans, to import power from Ethiopia to engage in consultations ahead of implementing the multi-billion project.
The ranchers, who have opposed plans to have the overhead power lines pass through their ranches, have suggested three ways of to solve the impasse.
In a report detailing their objections, the large scale farmers says the project can be re-aligned, the power lines buried or abandonment of the project altogether.
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They have opposed a move by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco)-the project implementer- to route the 400KV double circuit line through their farms saying that it will hurt local tourism.
“This has wider implications as the lack of tourism in these areas reduces the need for support services,” read the report.
They claimed that the project would deny residents a chance to get alternative livelihoods.
The ranchers in a report compiled by a consultant, David Hewett on behalf of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum noted that the initial project research was poorly conducted and it has not been acknowledged by other proponents and other agencies including the World Bank.
The Sh63 billion power project is partially funded by the African Development bank (AfDB) and partly by the World Bank. According to reports posted in AfDB’s website, the Ethiopia-Kenya power interconnection system is planned to provide a reliable power supply to Kenya from Ethiopian.
The project is expected to earn millions of dollars for Ethiopia in power exports, according to experts within the Ethiopian Electric and Power Corporation.
And even as the ranchers made the claims, the AfDB announced last year February, that it was to approve a US dollars 231 million (about Sh20 billion) loan for the project.
Ethiopian Country Program Officer for the AfDB Halima Hashi said the bank’s board of directors will be expected to appraise the project in the first quarter of this financial year.
The ranchers claimed they were not consulted, while: “We have chosen not to take the legal route, because we value a consultative one”.
Thursday, Laikipia leaders reacted with fury over the ranchers hard line stance.
“The refusal by large scale farmers of Laikipia County for the long distance power line to pass though their farms is in bad taste. Kenyans cannot continue to suffer high electricity costs because of a few Laikipia tycoons,” said women representative Jane Apollos.