Angry residents blockade dam project

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 00:00 |
Residents block the entrance of Athi Water Services offices at Karimenu, Gatundu North, yesterday. They paralysed operations and forced workers out of the site. Photo/PD/MATHEW NDUNGU

A fresh standoff has emerged at the Sh24 billion Karimenu II Dam Water Project in Gatundu North; Kiambu County after affected persons ejected all workers out of the construction site over unsettled compensation.

Angry residents yesterday forced all excavator operators at the site to dig trenches at all the entrances and exits of the construction site blocking all movements before they forced all the workers out of the site in full glare of armed police officers.

The aggrieved persons who are affected in the Phase 2 of the project claim that the government has failed to honour its promise of disbursing their dues months after they were promised full payment.

They are demanding Sh2.2 billion as compensation for land and crop damages, money that will see the government acquire 383 acres of more land that will hasten construction works.

Chinese contractors 

Led by Kamau Gathanji, the irate locals claimed that the Chinese contractor has already started excavating their land even before they are compensated threatening to keep guard of their property until they are fully paid.

Delays to compensate them, the locals decried that the government has impoverished them as they can no longer farm on their land or put-up new structures, a situation that has compelled them to take loans for survival.

“The government promised to pay several months ago but are yet to honor their promise.

We have been forced to wait for pay without developing our land as we could be evicted any time.

We have no food or money and our hope has continued to deplete each day,” said Gathanji.

Jane Wanjiru who claimed that the government has been scheming to deprive them of their ancestral land, which she vowed to protect to death, echoed Gathanji’s sentiments.

“The government gave us award documents many months ago but the papers have remained less useful.

We were to receive our payments in December last year but their promise never materialised.

We have waited for payment of damages and land but the government seems to be orchestrating a bad scheme which we shall not agree to,” said Wanjiru.

Regina Wanjiru, another affected resident, said the contractor has already completed the diversion tunnel and intake tower foundation, which will force them to leave their land.

Wanjiru called on the government to expedite the payment process to relieve them of many anguishes they have continued to grapple with among them inability to pay school fees, provide basic needs for their families alongside other survival needs.

Trail of destruction

Mathew Mukuha, another local said that besides delay in compensation, the contractor has been left a trail of destruction through explosives that he has been executing without the knowledge of locals.

“They are exploding the hard rocks very unprofessionally. We should be informed prior to the blasting process otherwise families are crying after their houses almost collapsed,” added Mukuha.

The residents are now calling on the National Land Commission (NLC) which has been executing the compensation process and Athi Water Services that is implementing the project to intervene and solve the prevailing tussle to allow smooth construction works.

Construction of the dam that is expected to boost water supply in Thika, Juja, Ruiru and parts of Nairobi has been hanging in balance since its construction began in 2019.

In the first phase of the project, residents held demonstrations and, on several occasions, kicked the contractor out of their land further derailing the project.

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