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November 30, 2023
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Ruling paves way for building of Kenya’s largest dam

Kenya’s ambitious plans to build Africa’s second largest fresh water dam are inching closer to reality after the government resolved a procurement dispute which threatened to delay the
The High Grand Falls Dam, estimated to cost a whopping Sh200 billion, is one of the largest undertaking
by the government after the Standard Gauge Railway
project, and is among President Uhuru Kenyatta’s
legacy projects.
It is also part of the Sh1.5 trillion Lamu Port and
Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor
(Lapsset) projects and will be built downstream the
Seven Folks dams along River Tana.
Construction of the dam was conceived in 2009
during former President Mwai Kibaki’s regime as
part of an ambitious effort to build 1,000 water reservoirs across the country in an attempt to revolutionise irrigation-based farming.

In terms of size, the proposed water reservoir that
will cover Kitui and Tharaka Nithi counties will be
Africa’s second largest after the Aswan High Dam
in Egypt – which is on River Nile – and will be East
Africa’s biggest dam covering 165 square kilometres.
Documents seen by the Sunday Nation reveal that
construction of the dam that will hold more than 5.6
billion cubic metres of water is expected to take six
years, with at least 4,500 households occupying the
proposed site in the two counties set to be displaced.
Apart from producing 700 megawatts of hydropower,
the dam will also facilitate the irrigation of more than
250,000 hectares of land in Kitui, Garissa and Tana
River counties, besides helping address the perennial flooding menace in the Coast region.
According to Irrigation Principal Secretary Fred
Segor, the dam’s holding capacity would be enough
to support irrigation on a massive scale, address the
perennial flooding at the Kenya’s Coast region while
also serving 1.5 million people living downstream.
“The benefit to the region is enormous. Because first,
it is going to form a large man made lake, where it
will be easy introducing fishing and tourism activities to the communities around it,” Prof Segor said.

The Public Procurement Review Board (PPRB) — the
state agency that handles disputes arising from government tendering — upheld an earlier ruling that
the British firm that won the multibillion contract
be allowed to undertake the project. London-based GBM Engineering Consortium won
the tender in a competitive process where seven
international construction firms — five of them
Chinese — participated in the bidding process under
the fund, design, build, own, operate and transfer
In the latest ruling, the National Irrigation Board
(NIB), which was the procuring entity on behalf of
the Kenyan government, was directed to conclude
the tendering process within 30 days by carrying out
the technical and financial evaluation of the bidders.
Mr. Paul Gicheru, the PPRB chairman, ruled that
the government had no legal basis of cancelling the
tender or delaying the award of the tender to the
British firm, after all the other bidders were eliminated at the preliminary stages.

The board had earlier heard and determined the
dispute in favour of the British construction firm
on July 4, and was hearing its appeal after the NIB
disregarded its ruling and cancelled the tender.
The dispute over tender number NIB/T/018/2016-
2017 arose on May 29 when NIB cancelled the tender
after it emerged that only GBM Consortium had met
the preliminary conditions set out in the request for
proposals, including a mandatory site visit.
“The procuring entity is directed to evaluate the
tender submitted to it and conclude the procurement process including making the award within
30 days from the date of this decision,” the ruling
delivered last week said.

This means that plans to roll out the project will
begin in earnest after the Treasury agrees with the
contractor on the timelines in implementing the
Kenya is not required to mobilize any resources for
the project as the contractor will operate the dam
after construction for a period of 20 years.
The ruling now paves the way for the next phase
of land acquisition where affected persons will be
The Water Kenya learnt that the British government
has a keen interest in the project as it battles for a
share of Kenya’s infrastructure deals and was part of
agenda discussed during the bilateral talks between
Prime Minister Theresa May and Mr. Kenyatta in
Nairobi last month.

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