Sh81b Thwake Dam project water ‘unfit for human use’

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021 22:20 |
The ongoing construction works of Thwake Multipurpose dam project at the confluence of river Thwake and Athi River in Makueni. Photo/COURTESY

The fate of the Sh81.4 billion Thwake Dam project in Makueni County now hangs in the balance after the Auditor General declared its water unfit for human consumption.

The Auditor General’s findings come ahead of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s planned tour to the three lower eastern counties of Machakos, Makueni and Kitui to launch and inspect development projects, among them the dam.

The first phase of the project, which has been hit by controversy since its conception, is projected to cost Sh42 billion. 

Entire project

But the entire project, whose construction started in 2017 and is expected to be completed in November next year, will cost the taxpayer Sh81.4 billion.

But in her latest report, Auditor General Dr Nancy Gathungu has questioned the viability of the project whose water she says is not fit for human consumption.

Gathungu raises concern  over the state of the water flowing into the dam from the heavily polluted Nairobi and Athi rivers.

“The water in the dam is drawn from Athi River, which gets most of its water from Nairobi River, which has had environmental issues over the time,” notes Gathungu.

She observes that the Nairobi River water contains high levels of heavy metals making it  unfit for human consumption.

The Auditor further notes that there were no indications that the Ministry of Water has put mechanisms in place to purifiy the water before the dam is completed in November next year.

“Consequently, in the absence of any mitigation efforts to avert the pollution, the water and the food crops to be grown under irrigation in the proposed dam may not be fit for human consumption,” the Auditor warns.

“There was no evidence of efforts by the implementing agency to mitigate against the risk and ensure the river is free from pollutants and fit for human consumption before the end of the expected completion of the programme in November 2022,” notes the auditor in the report which has largely borrowed from studies done on the matter.

Sadly, the auditor notes, the objectives of constructing the dam may, therefore, not be achieved.

The local leadership led by area MP Dan Maanzo has warned all the works and resources put into the project could go down the drain if water flowing into the dam is not purified.

“The project will be an exercise in futility if the water is not cleaned. 

“It defeats the purpose if we allow polluted water to flow into the dam because  we will be endangering the lives of millions of people in the area,” said Maanzo.

The MP urged the government to stop the project and instead, look for funds to clean up  the two rivers.

The project is jointly funded by the government and the African Development Bank.

Gathungu also questioned the availability of funds for the remaining three phases, with the environment issues expected to be of concern to the lenders.

“Securing Sh39.84 billion to fund the remaining three phases might prove difficult owing to the issues raised over the viability of the project,” says the Auditor.

The auditor has also raised queries over the utilisation of the money allocated to the project especially on the breach of the law by the management, who vary specifications particularly on vehicles to be provided by the contractor.

Thwake Dam, which is located in Makueni county, is expected to provide water to more than 1.3 million residents cutting across Machakos, Konza, Makueni and Kitui areas.

The intent and purpose of the project was to reduce the resident’s over-reliance on rain water and help them engage in irrigation, hydropower among others.     

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