Senators have asked the government to compensate communities living downstream, River Tana Delta for losses incurred as a result of activities upstream.
The senators who backed a Motion by Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana on the adverse effects of activities upstream raised concerns that locals have suffered because of the projects which have resulted in flooding and loss of livestock and crops over the years.
They want the national government to come up with ways to support communities that live downstream as well as mitigation measures against any undesirable effects going forward.
Mungatana called on the Ministry of Water and Irrigation to come up with a compensation plan to cushion locals who have to endure recurrent flooding and water shortage caused by activities upstream.
“The residents of Tana River have really suffered due to flooding that destroys crops when KenGen discharges water during rainy seasons and drought due to construction of dams along the river resulting in little flow of the river during the dry season,” he said.
The Tana River Senator faulted the government for ignoring the plight of the residents whose major economic activities are livestock keeping, farming, and fishing.
He said that defective laws on water management had led to the destruction of the ecosystem and urged the government to craft proper river management policies along the Anglo-Egyptian treaties, recognising the minimum guaranteed flow of the river to downstream communities.
Mungatana revealed that he is preparing a Bill aimed at amending water laws to create legal regimes to protect water for posterity.
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“The people of Tana River County are demanding that there should be no more ventures along River Tana without consultation and public participation of those staying downstream since a proper guideline is needed to protect our rivers for posterity,” he said.
Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna supported the motion saying that the government should come up with a strategy that takes care of communities living along rivers across the country in case major projects are undertaken along such ecosystems.
Sifuna said that the involvement of residents was crucial so as to make them feel part and parcel of any projects undertaken along the rivers.
“There is always a need for the government to come up with guidelines that will be advantageous to communities living in the upper, middle, and lower stream of Tana River and any other river in the country going forward since we have to safeguard citizens,” he said.
Mandera Senator Ali Roba noted that it was imperative that post-project environmental, economic and social impact assessment on downstream communities be carried out by relevant government agencies so that the extent to which they will be affected is documented.
Roba said that the water levels in the River Tana have gone down negatively impacting farming activities in Garissa and Tana River counties due to continued exploitation of the river which must be a reason for concern to all stakeholders.
“It is very important that whenever we have projects in River Tana and other major water catchment areas in the country post-project assessment needs to be carried out to ensure that the communities residing downstream are protected from any dangers,” he said.
Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago urged relevant government agencies to go through the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports to balance between the importance of the project and the benefit to the downstream communities to ensure none suffers.
Mandago regretted that despite hosting the largest river in the country, Tana River county residents are among those greatly affected by the drought situation in the country and the plight of downstream communities should be looked at as a matter of urgency.
Garissa Senator Abdul Haji requested the government to carry out a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment so as to establish the harmful activities affecting people living downstream of River Tana.
“Environmental Impact Assessment carried out earlier was only focused on the projects forgetting that area residents depend on the river for their farming and livestock keeping activities yet the River Tana was serving residents of other parts of the country,” said Haji.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei demanded that government agencies involved in the management of water should come up with compensation for locals who are victims of the mismanagement of water resources across the country.
The senators said international protocols and treaties acknowledge that rivers belong to the people downstream.