Too many dams but little water to use: Many are full but with mud and trash

Ndaka-ini dam in Murang'a County in a photo taken on April 30, 2018. PHOTO | MARY WAMBUI | NATION

What you need to know:

  • Thousands of people face the risk of being swept out of their homes as the water reservoirs overflow. Crops and animals are also at risk.

  • In the Tana delta, electricity producer KenGen warned Kenyans downstream of the Seven Forks dams on the Tana to vacate to higher grounds as the water was about to spill over.

  • In some parts of the country, the dams are already full yet they do not have a lot of water because of siltation.

Poor design and siltation of most water dams in Kenya have increased the risk of floods as heavy rains continue to pound the country.

Thousands of people face the risk of being swept out of their homes as the water reservoirs overflow. Crops and animals are also at risk.

In the Tana delta, electricity producer KenGen warned Kenyans downstream of the Seven Forks dams on the Tana to vacate to higher grounds as the water was about to spill over.

In some parts of the country, the dams are already full yet they do not have a lot of water because of siltation.

DRY SPELLS

In Nyandarua County, the dams are almost dry despite the heavy rains.

The county has 220 dams and water pans, many of which were poorly designed and constructed and are thus full of silt.

At Mwihoti dam, a resident, Joel Mwaniki, says the water body has never benefitted the community since construction in 2014.

“It can’t hold water because it has an outlet without an inlet, and has also accumulated a high level of silt. Mwihoti Secondary School community donated the land for construction of the dam but the institution buys water during dry spells,” said Mr Mwaniki.

It is the same story at Munyeki dam, which was meant to provide water for small-scale farming and livestock.

FARMING

“The dam has a lot of mud, it’s very shallow to hold and retain water for use in the dry season,” said a resident, Jenericah Wangeci.

County water and environment executive Simon Ng’ang’a said the dams will be renovated.

He attributes the pathetic state of the dams to encroachment, illegal farming activities, and deforestation.

“We are in the process of having the water bodies transferred from Settlement Trustee Fund to Nyandarua County Government, to enable us to do the renovations. As it is now, the county government is not the custodian hence frustrating our efforts to initiate renovations. We are consulting with other national government agencies to get a way forward,” said Mr Ng’ang’a.

Besides desilting, the county government plans to fence off the water bodies and plant environment-friendly trees around them.

DECREASED

In Laikipia County, dams and rivers that were on the verge of drying up have regained their water volumes thanks to the heavy rains.  Late last year, the water levels had decreased significantly as a result of prolonged drought.

 Some of the affected dams are Wangwaci, Ndemu Ndune, Ndurumo, Tandare, Ratia, Nyakinyua, Gataracha, Kamunju, Gatirima, Migaa and Kiriko.

 However, a spot check by the Nation revealed that the water pans are filling up. 

At the 74-kilometre radius Wangwaci dam in Laikipia West, the water volumes have gone back to normal.

 The dam serves more than 5,000 families in the area.

DESILTED

“We were worried when we noticed that water levels at the dam had started reducing. We thank God because the dam has gone back to normal after the rains,” said Mr Ezekiel Maina, a large scale tomato farmer.

But he said most of the rain water could go to waste as many dams and  pans in the region were not desilted during the dry season

Rivers that had been affected include the Uwaso Nyiro, that flows through Samburu County and feeds into Lake Turkana. Others are Ol Arabel, Pesi, Muktane, Gathara, Sundai, and Marura in Laikipia West.

Meanwhile, Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has said the government has set aside more than Sh100 million for construction and desilting of dams in the region.

CROCODILES

 “We want to make sure the dams have enough water to be used by residents during the dry seasons,” said the CS.

The Turkwel dam in West Pokot County is full to capacity although residents said the rains had brought more crocodiles to it.

River Turkwel supplies water to the multi-purpose dam that is the source for the Turkwel hydro-power plant.

Although River Turkwel’s levels had dropped significantly during the dry season, the rains pounding the region in the last one month had seen its levels rise.

A resident, Mr Solomon Amekam, said he had lost two goats to crocodiles and asked the Kenya Wildlife Service to fence off the dam to avoid more losses.

Most dams in Tana River county have been submerged by the floods with some spilling into the villages, displacing hundreds of people.

24,000

Residents in sections of Galole constituency and larger parts of Tana Delta and Bura have been forced to move to higher grounds.

The county is experiencing a humanitarian crisis with about 24,000 people having been displaced, while 400 others are still marooned by the floods in villages. Kenya Red Cross Society county coordinator Jarred Bombe said rescue operations are ongoing although they are being frustrated by limited resources. “The boats we have are very few compared to the area we are covering. It is a vast area covered with water, almost 70 per cent of the county but we are ferrying about 40 people in a trip at distances of almost 60 km,” Mr Bombe said.

The Ministry of Devolution has  moved in to support those in camps with food and cooking oil.

Speaking in Dumi, Tana Delta, Devolution Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Hussein Dado said the ministry will ensure those affected  do not starve.

The county government has also donated maize, rice and cooking oil worth Sh40 million.

ACCESSIBLE

The county has also appealed to the national government for support in terms of air transport to areas not accessible by road.

Hundreds of families are camping on the Tana Delta Irrigation project (TDIP) land.

 Tarda head of communications Sam Wanyoike Musa told the Nation that the situation  is dire and needs urgent intervention.

 He called for construction of larger reservoirs on the upstream areas of the river to help reduce flooding.

In Kwale, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) county coordinator Ramon Sherah said all dams in the county are filled with water that will last for long and will address persistent shortages.

WASTE

Speaking to the Nation, Mr Shera said they have addressed the problem of siltation in most of the dams constructed by NDMA by building silt traps.

But in Taita-Taveta, residents are facing water shortages despite the heavy rains. 

The county lacks conservation points, making billions of litres of water go to waste. 

The dams which are largely relied on by residents for domestic, livestock and irrigation use are Kishenyi and Mwatate. 

Kishenyi and Mwatate dams supply water to more than 5,000 and 2,000 residents in Wundanyi and Mwatate respectively.  According to the Water and Irrigation County executive Gasper Kabaka, the dams are now overflowing due to the ongoing rains.  

BUDGETS

However, he confirmed that most of the rain water is going to waste due to lack of initiatives to harvest it.  

He blamed this on lack of money to build more dams.

“These are projects which require huge budgets. We need partners to do such projects,” he said. 

Reports by Steve Njuguna, Waikwa Maina, Stephen Oduor, Winnie Atieno, Lucy Mkanyika, Fadhili Fredrick, Charles Wanyoro and Oscar Kakai

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