Raila politicising Murang’a water project – Wa Iria

Raila politicising Murang’a water project - Wa Iria
Water CS Eugene Wamalwa flanked by Murang'a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria at the northern water collector tunnel project on October 11, 2016.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria has accused CORD leader Raila Odinga of politicizing the Northern Water Collector Tunnel project being constructed in the county.

Speaking on Tuesday, the governor said that Raila has orchestrated a plan that involves using the project to penetrate Central region in a hunt for votes ahead of the 2017 General Election.

“What Raila is trying to do is use this issue as his entry into Central Kenya region by portraying himself as the saviour of Murang’a people as far as water is concerned,” claimed the county boss Wa Iria.

Governor Mwangi noted that the people of Murang’a were consulted before the commencement of the project, contradicting Raila’s claims on Monday that there was no public participation.

He said that already President Uhuru Kenyatta has a plan for the people of the county, noting that the debate on how the project would benefit the locals is a continuous discussion.

“We have spoken to Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa to ensure local residents benefit from the project even as the water goes to Nairobi.”

However, ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed differed with Governor Mwangi saying Raila’s sentiments should not be ignored.

“When he talked about Mau Forest being under attack and the need for its conservation, they said it was politics and yet it turned out to be true. This, too, is true,” said the Suna East MP.

In his address on Monday, Raila said that the project would turn Garissa, Murang’a, Tana River and Ukambani regions into deserts by affecting underground flow of water and make Nairobi flood-prone due to increased volumes of water that would flow to the capital.

He also claimed that there was no public participation prior to the commencement of the project,  accusing the Jubilee government of secrecy.

“This project, once completed, will lead to severe loss of water in Tana River and dry up streams in Garissa, Ukambani and Tana River delta. These regions will be turned into deserts five years after the project is launched,” he said.

Furthermore, the ODM Party Leader claimed that the project goes against the Environmental Management Act and Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation since it poses great threats to the people.

“In Muranga alone, 77 species of aqua life including seven special fish species would be extinct. Water flowing into Masinga Dam would also be affected,” said Raila.

The CORD co-principal then called on President Kenyatta to order the immediate suspension of the project until environment concerns raised are addressed.

He added: “The President should address the people living in Tana River basin and tell them why the government is proceeding with project in secrecy.”

“He should also ensure public participation is considered with views from the people of Garissa, Muranga Ukambani and Tana River region taken into consideration.”

Odinga also called for comprehensive audit conducted on environmental concerns and proper environmental impact assessment on the data and hydrological survey on underground systems.

“World Bank should also speak to the people of Kenya and explain why it approved the setting up of a project before environmental assessment is done.”

The ODM leader also called on the Murang’a Governor to withdraw the consent of Murang’a government that supported the project saying it is a false representation of what his people want.

In a rejoinder, Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said that Raila’s utterances were untruthful, adding that the project being undertaken by the government is not secretive.

He said that the project is part of the Nairobi Water Master Plan that Raila launched on September 18, 2012, and that necessary approvals and licenses were obtained for the abstraction of water from Irati, Maragwa and Gikige rivers.

“The water supplied to Nairobi is 540,000 cubic meters yet what we require is over 700,000 cubic meters. We have about 6 million people in Nairobi every day, and Nairobi doesn’t have its own water.”

“The water sources for Nairobi are external. We need to work on these mega projects such as the northern collector tunnel. The World Bank is a key partner and conducts extensive studies before authorising such a project.”

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale has also came out to defend the project, accusing the CORD leader of seeking publicity in his open criticism of Jubilee government.

“Raila’s lash-out at Jubilee over the water project is insincere since he is the one who launched the project in September 2012. He is simply using the project as a scheme to hide the disgruntlement in his coalition,” he said.

“There is the possibility that Raila was promised a commission from the project and his discontent is a result of a botched promise.”

Despite rebuttal by Jubilee leaders, several residents in Murang’a have however raised environmental concerns over the project, with several claiming they would not benefit from it.

Early this year, a Murang’a resident, Joseph Mwangi, petitioned the National Environmental Tribunal to stop the construction of the World Bank-funded project citing environmental concerns.

A section of MPs from the county, including Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, have in the past opposed the project calling for scientific impact assessment study to ensure it does not affect underground water sources.

The project is designed to draw water from Irati, Gikigie and Maragua rivers and channel it to Thika Dam.

The county assembly also expressed their opposition to the project before making a turn-about and supporting it.

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