Charles Kipng'etich at the proposed Koru / Soin Dam construction site in Muhoroni. Locals have been protesting over claims that they have not been given letters nor compensated. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

After more than 60 years of waiting, construction of the Koru-Soin Dam has started, but displaced landowners are yet to be compensated.

The contractors, China Jiangxi International Kenya Limited and China Jiangxi International Economic and Cooperation Company Ltd Joint Venture, who are charged with delivering the project, have started moving equipment to the site.

Last week, senior government officials led by Irrigation Principal Secretary Gitonga Mugambi toured the site on a fact-finding mission where he revealed that construction of the Sh20 billion dam will take five years.

Although Mugami told residents they would be paid for their land, residents who have been displaced threatened to stall the project.

David Oginga, the residents' representative, said only about 250 families out of 1,150 in Koru had received payment.

"Several landowners are yet to get their compensation yet the project is about to start," said Mr Oginga.

The villagers said if the government was not ready to meet their demands, they should be allowed to use the farm for farming.

"This project is even missing in the supplementary budget draft as promised. Let them degazette it, and if possible, come back and further engage us," said Simon Kemei from Soin.

Mr Kemei said officials from the National Lands Commission had been complaining that residents were delaying the succession issue, yet they had prevented them from going ahead with the exercise.

Kemei said the exercise, starting with valuation, had hurt the project, adding that the process had been politicised.

"Right now as we speak, we cannot even get title deeds. Why are they not even giving us money for improvement and for our people to purchase land as we wait for the rest? Someone did not do due diligence," he said.

Catherine Keya, another Soin resident, said she was living in despair because despite not receiving any compensation, the authorities had prevented her from selling the land or even leasing it to people who wanted to farm.

Ms Keya said she received an award letter in February last year but had not been given even a shilling.

"It has been a long wait and our children have not gone to school. We do not have food because we cannot farm. The government should quickly work on the compensation process. But if the project is going to take a long time before it starts, they should allow us to work on our farms to get money," she said.

Charles Kipng'etich said that while he had been paid for his land, he knew of worried families who were waiting for their money.

He said that only about 10 families in Soin have been paid, adding that the project would not kick off unless all affected residents had been paid.

"The only reason I was lucky to get compensated is because my land was in the line of the embankment. Majority of our people are still waiting in fear. Those in the zero line where the wall is to be built are still waiting.

"Our leaders should stop saying that 90 per cent of people have been compensated because those who have been compensated are few. Let the leaders come to the ground and get the right position of things," he said.

The proposed dam, which is being funded by the national government, will be a zoned rock-fill dam with an impermeable clay core. It will have a storage capacity of 93.7 million cubic metres.

Kisumu County Executive Committee (CEC) member in charge of Water, Climate Change, and the Environment Marilyn Agwa said the dam embankment will be built across Koitatui and Got Alila hills.

Ms Agwa said water treatment works were about one kilometre downstream of the dam wall from where water would flow by gravity to low-lying areas, mainly on the Kisumu side.

Water to serve the Kericho side would be pumped to the main storage tank at Kwa Nyangilo, from where it would be distribute to various points in the targeted areas.

Agwa confirmed that residents had met with national government officials and the contractor last week and discussed the current status of the project, including the issue of compensation.

The CEC said she would raise any further concerns about compensation with Governor Anyang' Nyong'o, adding that he would take up the matter with the relevant agencies.

She said the contractor was requested to start with the embankment and reservoir areas, which were not affected by payment issues.

"We have held several meetings with the residents. A lot of consultation and organization is going on. The last meeting was held with the contractor who raised some challenges he was going through," she said.

The dam is expected to reduce the flooding problem in the lower reaches of River Nyando. It will also supply 72,000m3/day of water for domestic use, irrigate 2,570 hectares of land, and generate 2.5MW of hydropower.

Koru-Soin Dam Water Shiortage Land Grabbing