West Pokot residents in panic as Turkwel Dam water levels rise

Turkwel Dam

Turkwel Dam in West Pokot County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Residents living around Turkwel Dam in West Pokot County are in panic over its rising water levels, amid the heavy rains being experienced across the country.However, the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) which manages the dam has assured the residents that there is no cause for alarm.KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos said as of April 30, the water levels were at 11.33.85 metres above sea level (masl) and there was still headroom. He said the water levels had increased for the last 24 hours by 75 centimetres.According to KVDA engineer in charge of water resources Daniel Kimutai, it will take a month of continuous heavy rainfall for the dam water to spill over. In case of a spillover, he explained that it would be gradual.Should that happen, Kalemnyang, Loyapat, Katilu, Lodwar Town, Nakwamoru, and settlements along the shores of Lake Turkana, including Sitei and Kopul locations would be affected and more than 3,000 families’ residents displaced.Read: What really happened in Mai Mahiu: Nation investigation reveals tragedy was avoidableThe majority of people in some of the areas are said to have encroached the boundaries of the dam.Mr Kimutai told the Nation that the maximum level for a dam covering 60 kilometres and holding 1.2 billion litres of water to spill over is 11.50 metres.“0.75 times 10 days is 7.5 metres, meaning water can spill over in the next 20 days 0.75 times 20 is 15 meters if the rate is the same.  But the rainfall volume is not uniform every day,” Mr Kimutai said.Read: Over 70 killed, thousands displaced in floods havoc“We expect the water level to rise, but it will take time for the dam to fill and reach its highest level. It can spill over in the next month if the rainfall volumes persist, but at this point, it is highly unlikely to happen,” he said.Eng Kimutai called on worried communities in the low-lands to be at peace as there was no cause for an alarm.“It cannot burst and people should remain calm because we are in charge. In case of an emergency, the dam is designed to safely evacuate water through the spillways and low-level outlet as necessary,” he explained.He said the current water volumes will last three to four years for power generation and will greatly benefit the Kenya Electricity Generating Company.Read: Village in Rachuonyo where rainfall is a curse“This is a multipurpose dam for power generation, proposed irrigation, fishing, and tourism. There cannot be any disturbance even if there is an earthquake,” he said.He said KVDA is monitoring the dam every week on water pressure.“The rising water levels have also been contributed to immensely by heavy siltation as a result of a change of land use mainly agriculture in the upstream region (Mt Elgon region, Kacheliba and Moroto in Uganda),” he stated.However, Jackline Lokiru, a resident of Riting market called on the government to help them move to safer grounds.“The waters are rising and we don’t have anywhere to go,” she said.Kostei sub-location assistant chief Joseph Siwa said locals were living in fear.Floods have affected Reresi, Konoso, Chepkachin, and Kudulongole areas in West Pokot County where people have been forced to move to safer grounds.[email protected]