When the government pumped Sh6 billion into the Turkwel hydropower and multipurpose project in West Pokot County, hopes were high.
But the expectations have been dashed three decades later.
Surrounding communities – Pokot and Turkana – say they have nothing to show for the French-constructed plant.
The major stumbling block is insecurity, the main reason that made The Kenya Electricity Generation Company (KenGen) suspend its operations 12 years ago.
The company moved some of its staff from the area and now operates from Kitale in neighbouring Trans Nzoia County.
It also transferred its personnel to other power stations due to increased acts of lawlessness arising from a bitter conflict between Pokot and the Turkana over ownership of the power project.
This left the Turkwel Gorge in a desolate state.
A basketball court, a swimming pool, a modern club and shops are now in ruins as wild animals and shrubs take over.
Leaders in West Pokot have now urged KenGen to fully reopen the power plant so that residents can benefit from its services.
“Security has been beefed up in the area and now we want KenGen to come back and continue with their operations. The government has deployed security forces to provide security to the power plant to protect the lives and property of KenGen staff and local communities,” said Kapenguria MP Samuel Moroto.
More than 300 casual workers at the station were rendered jobless, he said.
Mr Moroto also called on the company to step up its corporate social responsibility projects to uplift the lives of locals and help sustain peace.
“KenGen as a company has never assisted even schools around the plant even as they make millions of shillings. Residents have been left vulnerable to crocodiles and malaria as a result of the construction of the plant,” he noted.
Help improve infrastructure
Mr Moroto observed that the local community depended greatly on the services offered by the company and were now suffering.
“A clinic has been moved to Kitale. A bus used by schoolchildren and residents was taken away and children trek to their homes and up to Kapenguria,” he said.
Endough MCA Evanson Lomadunyi called on the company to help improve infrastructure in the area.
“Roads in the area are still impassable though the power plant has been in the area for a long time. There are no health centres here. We only have one dispensary at Turkwel,” he said.
Last year, KenGen board chairman Joshua Choge, acknowledged that security around Turkwel had improved.
“Now there is peace in the region. We are starting with the club, which is in a deplorable state. We will now carry out corporate social responsibility in the area that will uplift the lives of people,” said Mr Choge last year, raising the hopes of locals.
He promised that the company would renovate various structures destroyed at the height of insecurity.
“Many structures and equipment were vandalised. We shall renovate houses to resume normal business for those staying in Kitale and working in swifts,” he said.
He pledged: “This is a new beginning. We want to revive cultural events and have morans, athletics and beauty contests during the annual cultural event. Residents will get a market for their products to improve the economy.”
Mr Choge said the company also planned to help local schools put up various structures.
The company, he said, would also help bring piped water to locals and provide relief food during droughts.
‘KenGen has good plans for the community around the Turkwel power plant. The company will put up a centre of excellence in the area,” he said.
“We will supply electricity to homesteads around, empower youth by giving them employment and engage them in business among other things.”
The power station, with a capacity of 106 megawatts, was set up under the control of the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) between 1986 and 1991.
It is one of the major hydropower plants in Kenya and generates about 10 per cent of the national electricity output.
The station is connected to the national grid at the Lessos sub-station on a 220kV transmission line that is 230km long.