Kwale County Governor Salim Mvurya wants residents affected by the much-awaited Sh20 billion Mwache Multipurpose Dam project compensated properly before the official launch of the project next month.
Mvurya said issues of land compensation and resettlement of affected communities should be resolved amicably before the project jointly funded by the World Bank and the national government begins.
The Mwache Multipurpose Dam development project under the portfolio of the Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation is a priority investment by the national government as a flagship project under the Vision 2030.
The project requires 1,600 acres of land and will displace about 4,250 residents, whose assets and livelihoods may be affected, as well as their access to natural or economic resources as a result of activities under the dam project.
Mwache Dam is an 87.5-meter-tall concrete gravity dyke, holding 118 million cubic meters for water supply and irrigation and is expected to boost the water supply for Kwale and Mombasa counties.
The dam site is located across the Mwache river at the Fulugani village in Kasemeni ward in Kinango sub-county of Kwale county and when complete is expected to put 2,600 hectares of land under irrigation in Kwale county.
The dam, which was designed by the Association of Nippon Koei Consulting Engineers Ltd of Japan, is planned as a Roller-Compacted Concrete (RCC) gravity dam riding on the numerous advantages associated with the RCC technology.
The dam, which would be the first of its kind in East Africa, will harness the floodwaters from the Mwache River basin in Kinango sub-county and help tackle persistent water shortages in the coastal region.
The Mwache Dam project is part of the second phase of the Water Security and Climate Resilience programme which will focus on Mombasa and Kwale counties.
While locals are upbeat about the potential of the dam, they are worried that they could soon be forced out of their land to make way for the project without adequate compensation.
Mvurya was speaking when he received a delegation from the World Bank and Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation in his Kwale office where issues on the Mwache Multipurpose Dam were discussed.
The ministry team was led by Engineer Simon Mwangi while the World Bank team was led by the Global practice manager for water Catherine Tovey and Adrian Cutler in charge of the resettlement and infrastructure section.
“As we move towards the implementation stage of the project there are key issues that need to be ironed out including the compensation of the affected persons and relocation of social amenities” he said.
The county boss insisted that there should be no project launch in October until issues of compensation and resettlement of the affected persons have been resolved noting that they would not allow the water project to decrease the quality of life of the people.
“We want an urgent meeting with the Cabinet Secretary in charge and the National Land Commission to iron out these matters. Residents must be compensated adequately before any launch is done. The earlier proposed compensation rates were too low,” said Mvurya.
He went on ‘This is a major historic flagship project and we support it fully. But things must be done the right way. Don’t bring a contractor in October if all outstanding issues are not resolved first”.
He said a meeting last November between local leaders, residents and National Land Commission officials recommended that land compensation rates be reviewed upwards before the actual construction of the water reservoir that would supply water for domestic use and irrigation commences.
Mvurya said there should be transparency and total inclusivity of the county, local leadership and residents if the project is to succeed.
“I reaffirm support for the Mwache dam project, I look forward to the commencement of this project that will not only bring forth sustainable water supply for domestic purposes but also support irrigation and other components that are of benefit to the people,” he said.
Eng. Mwangi said the ministry of water was banking on the Mwache dam reservoir as one that would offer a lasting solution to the water shortfall facing residents of Kwale and the coastal city of Mombasa which lack fresh water sources and entirely depends on the supply of the precious commodity from sources in Kwale, Kilifi and Taita Taveta counties.
Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari contends that some locals are supposed to get Sh. 300,000 and others Sh. 400,000 per acre of land but insisted residents should get at least Sh. 1 million per acre since their livelihoods would be affected.
Tayari said the compensation that the government would be offering to the affected people should be set by studying the fair market prices.
“The cash settlement that the affected people would be paid should be enough so that they are able to buy another piece of land elsewhere to live on and eke out a living,” he said.
A host of local leaders who attended the meeting warned that any delay or refusal to find a solution for the people was not the right thing to do and could provoke a conflict between the authorities and the people.
In the countdown to the project launch, dissatisfied residents demanding better compensation have been staging protests urging the authorities to find a good resolution to allow the development to go on peacefully.
The dam is expected to boost the fortunes of Kwale and Mombasa by supplying 186,000 cubic meters of water to the two counties daily.