On the last day of December 2021, engineers constructing the Thwake multipurpose dam successfully managed to divert the course of Athi River waters into the dam’s two mega tunnels. The event marked a milestone in the implementation of the dam that is jointly financed by government of Kenya and the African Development Bank.
Upon completion, the project being constructed by the China Gezhouba Group Company will supply 150,000 cubic metres of clean and safe drinking water per day to over three million rural inhabitants of the counties of Makueni, Kitui and Machakos, including the Konza technopolis.
The dam is also slated to inject up to 20 megawatts of electricity to the national grid besides promoting irrigated agriculture – all of which speak to the government’s Vision 2030 development blueprint.
The dam’s construction has provided employment to over 1,350 locals; giving respite to thousands of households especially in the backdrop of the Covid-19 global health crisis in which millions of Kenyans were pushed out of gainful employment. The skills and technology transfer to local employees will serve Kenya in similar undertakings in future.
The actualisation of Thwake multipurpose dam raises prospects for successful implementation of another project - the Konza technopolis. A key flagship of the Kenya Vision 2030, Konza has three main target clusters namely information communication technology; life sciences and engineering.
It is from the facility that Kenya aims to cement its digital ambitions with Konza becoming the first smart city in the region. The facility envisaged to be a key economic driver for Kenya has already bagged over 800 million dollars in commitments. Konza will largely draw it power and water supply from Thwake multipurpose dam.
Extended periods of drought have resulted in severe water and food security problems in the eastern region. Data from the United Nations indicate that over 2.9 million people in eastern Kenya are currently in need of food aid, with malnutrition affecting up to 500,000 children.
As a sustainable response to dried wells, lost pastures and dead livestock, the government intends to put over 40,000 hectares of land under irrigated agriculture through Thwake multipurpose dam.
This will promote not just food security but also wealth creation through light industries and value addition of agricultural produce in line with the aspirations of the government’s Big Four development agenda.
At 1.5-kilometre long and height designed to be 82 metres high, translating to about 12 million cubic metres of water; Thwake multipurpose dam is the largest water conservancy and hydropower project to be undertaken by the government of Kenya.
It is also a key highlight of the projects implemented under the purview of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The writer is a scholar of international relations.