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January 21, 2021
News Policy and Legislation

Government put to task over ‘legal’ water intakes

The government has caved in to pressure from Mt Kenya politicians and agreed to restore all legal water intakes that were destroyed at taxpayers’ expense.
This comes as farmers in Mt Kenya continued to go
without water for some time.
During a tense meeting held at Utalii Hotel in Nairobi,
politicians from the region took Water Cabinet
Secretary Simon Chelugui and his Environment
counterpart Keriako Tobiko to task over the closure
of the intakes, saying people from the region are
suffering.
Mr Chelugui said his ministry will reconstruct the
intakes destroyed during a crackdown last month.
He, however, did not give the time frame.
“We have agreed that all water abstraction points
shall have flow meters to determine the actual
amount of water abstracted and to regulate flow for
fair distribution of water to all farmers,” Mr Chelugui
said after the meeting.
Avoid crossing pipelines
The ministry also pledged to construct common
water intakes for residents located in the same area
to avoid crossing pipelines and make it easier for
them to monitor water usage.
The CS, however, said the government will continue
to destroy all illegal intakes and will not allow those
that had been illegally constructed to be built again.
“Farmers also need to review the type of irrigation methods currently in use to reduce wastage of
water,” Mr Chelugui said.
The leaders also agreed to fast-track the construction of proposed dams in the region to provide water
for irrigation, domestic and industrial purposes. This
will enable farmers store water for 90 days.
Mr Chelugui said illegal abstractions in Nithi will
be removed so as to improve water flow to Tharaka
region in Tharaka Nithi county.
The destruction of intakes affected farmers from
six counties.
Massive losses
According to a report from the two ministries, there
were about 75 intakes in Sagana River while Thegu
River had 45 intakes, which are disproportionately
high.
But the legislators accused the ministries of being
inconsiderate.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega said the ministries were
driving a wedge between the government and the
people. “We have expressed our disgust with the destruction of the water intakes and we want them
reinstated immediately,” he said.
Buuri MP Mugambi Rindikiri demanded that the
ministries restore the water points swiftly as the
disconnections had been an inconvenience to key
institutions, including hospitals and schools.
Farmers in Meru and Nyeri counties have registered
massive losses since the government disconnected
water intakes in Mt Kenya forest.
Ms Margaret Riungu, a dairy farmer at Kathera,
South Imenti, said she spent Sh40,000 to buy water
tanks for her 18 cows. “We did not need these tanks
before since we relied on piped water. The disconnection came as a shock to us because we were not
even alerted. I have to buy water for my cows, which
is very expensive,” she said.
Crops withered
Mr Peterson Kiogora, a farmer at Timau, Buuri subcounty, said he had invested Sh50,000 on his farm
but the crops withered after the water was disconnected. He had planted French beans, carrots and
tomatoes. He expected to earn more than Sh300,000
from the produce.
Intakes will cost a lot to restore, said Ms Annestine
Gatwiri, another farmer in Timau. She said their
investment worth more than Sh500,000 was
destroyed.
In Kieni, residents have already started reconnecting
destroyed water intakes in Mt Kenya and Aberdare
forests.
The farmers are having to bear the cost. Members of
Githegu Water Project in Kabaru, one of the biggest,
are required to replace the master metre at a cost of
over Sh60,000.
Lost sh4.2 Million
For three weeks, farmers have not irrigated their
farms. “Over 1,000 acres of crops have been damaged
due to lack of water for three weeks now. Our water
intake was legally licensed by WRA [Water Resources
Authority] but they destroyed it as well,” said Mr
Stephen Irungu from Kabaru in Kieni.
Jackson Gikonyo, fish farmer, said: “I have lost over
Sh4.2 million because all the fish died for lack of fresh
water. The government should have warned us in
advance.”

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