Farmers rue losses as state to spend millions on Abadare water intakes
Millions of taxpayers’ money will now go into reinstalling the intakes that the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Water Regulatory Authority (WRA) destroyed to abide by a declaration by Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui.
This comes as farmers complained they are staring at huge losses after the one-week dry spell.
The KFS said they had destroyed about 660 abstractions across Mt Kenya region, but that is now coming back to haunt them since the agency are expected to reinstall the intakes.
A meeting held on Tuesday between the Chelugui, Environment CS Keriako Tobiko and MPs, senators and governors from Mt Kenya and Aberdare Ranges water catchment areas resolved the issue.
The meeting also agreed that all water points shall have flow meters to determine the actual amount of water abstracted and to regulate flow and for fair distribution to all farmers. While the cancellation of the permits was meant to allow for an audit and prevent the unsustainable abstraction of water from the source, the unprecedented effect was that thousands have gone without water for the past three weeks.
The chairman of Uruku Union Water Project in Imenti South, Meru County, Justus Nkoroi, said they had incurred a loss of Sh1 million, following the disconnection and damage of the project’s intake and pipes. The project comprises 22 water clusters in Nkuene ward and serves more than 900 families.
“Most of the cabbages, carrots and French beans are dying up in the farms. Our schools have also been affected and if this extends to another week we will have no other alternative but to close them.”
Meanwhile, the Sh100 million Mt Kenya East Water Project serving close to 3,000 households was relieved since the WRA did not disconnect the project.
However, chairman Patrick Mwenda said the project was still a target before the disconnecting directive was stopped.
He said the project paid Sh45,000 as easement fee to the Water ministry in 1999 when the project was started and an additional Sh120,000 annually for way-leave and storage tanks located inside the Mt Kenya Forest.
This project funded by the Canadian government serves three wards – Abogeta West, Igoji West and Abogeta East.
Farmers are wary that the three weeks they have spent without water will significantly affect their harvest since their crops rely on irrigation.
The biggest criticism for Chelugui’s move to shut off the water intakes was that the decision did not take into account factors such as the legality and necessity of the intakes.
Some of the most affected projects that the State now has to reconstruct is Githegu Water Project in Kabaru whose members said was established in 1973.
In total, the number of abstractions destroyed in Mt Kenya and Aberdare forests is 660 and the cost of restoring them could run into millions of shillings.
But the biggest cost, according to farmers who used the water for irrigation, will be felt when the crops are harvested. The farmers expect their harvests to be adversely affected and the cost will transfer to consumers.
Lawrence Kahumbu, chairperson of a community water project that serves some 137 residents in Kabaru, said the losses they have incurred over the past three weeks are unquantifiable.
“Most of us are farmers and it is hard to estimate how much we have lost since we are very many users and three weeks without water is a lot,” Kahumbu said.
He said the forest officers destroyed the six-inch pipe drawing water from the river.
But the State is likely to run into a new hurdle over the proposal to have all the intakes metered.
“The government has helped us by returning the water but why should they also ask us to buy a meter? We installed the water pipes ourselves in the first place. They should put in the meter and we will pay,” said Kahumbu.
During a meeting held by water users in Kabaru in Nyeri, the question of having meters installed at every household was vehemently resisted.
“Water is the only natural resource we have, the same way Turkana County residents have oil. The water comes to us by gravity and we installed the pipes ourselves, why should we be metered?” a farmer said during demonstrations last week.
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