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ISSUE 101, September 1-30, 2014

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Pastoralists opposed to construction of mega dam on Ewaso Nyiro River By HENRY OWINO Residents of Isiolo, Laikipia and Samburu counties are up in arms against plans by the national Government to construct a mega dam on Ewaso Nyiro River. The proposed dam is a flagship project of Vision 2030 at Oldonyiro, Isiolo County by the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation for serving Isiolo’s new Resort City and is estimated to cost KSh10 billion. However, an estimated three million vulnerable pastoralist communities whose lifeline is the Ewaso Nyiro River ecosystem see it as a cause for potential conflicts among them and hence the reason they oppose the planned project. It is for this reason that over 200 pastoralists including women and children from three counties together with 30 camels walked over 250 kilometres for five days with an aim of sensitising stakeholders on the importance of conserving Ewaso Nyiro River ecosystem.


Dubbed as “Camel Caravan for Climate Change Adaptation 2014” the procession was flagged off at Merti Township in Isiolo County for communities living on the lower streams of Ewaso Nyiro River together with residents of Ol-Naboli Band in Laikipia North, within the upper streams. The pastoralists had a solidarity concern, protecting, preserving and conserving the Ewaso Nyiro River which is their main source of livelihood as well as their livestock and wildlife found in the area. The Government intends to construct the mega dam upstream on Ewaso Nyiro River at Oldonyiro to supply water to upcoming city and irrigate nearby horticultural farms among things. Oldonyiro River is Kenya’s second largest river after the Nile. Ewaso Nyiro River, is currently under threat of drying up as result of climate change. The residents depend on the river for water not only for their livestock but also for domestic use. There are those that do fishing in the river and provide food for their families. According to Mohamed Diba, Cordaid Kenya Disaster Risk Reduction expert, said construction of the dam will affect water supply and energy for at least three million pas-

toralist communities living downstream of Ewaso Nyiro River. Diba fears that the dam will interfere with normal water flow and the reduction might cause a major conflict downstream amongst communities and even with wildlife. He urges the national government to consult widely with county governments before installing such a project. “The dam’s construction by the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation for the Isiolo Resort City will adversely affect water and energy supplies for all the local communities living downstream of the Ewaso Nyiro River,” Diba cautioned. He explained: “It therefore remains a major cause of potential conflict among the estimated three million pastoralists whose economic lifeline is the Ewaso Nyiro River.” The same sentiments were echoed by community members who further called on their local leaders especially governors to stop the dam’s construction. They noted that construction of the dam will have negative environmental and social impact to their lives and should be stopped. “We will not accept the mega dam ‘s construction on the Ewaso Nyiro River. The Constitution is very clear that community’s views and participation is mandatory for any project that either County or national Government wants to initiate in an area,” said Halkano Dabado. He added: “The community will not take this dictatorship by national Government lightly at the expense of our lives. We depend on this river for our entire lives, so anything that would cut it short and impact on our economic livelihoods and resilience is neither accepted nor welcomed.” On his part, Isiolo Governor Godana Doyo assured the residents that if the dam will mean losing life to any living thing in the county then he will not tolerate it. He said no project can be installed in Isiolo County without his approval. Doyo regretted that a river that serves three million people as well as livestock and wildlife the Government wants to divert its water flow because of the resort city project. “Let me assure the residents who benefit from the Ewaso Nyiro River that no single life will be lost because of dam construction. It is better to leave the dam alone and save millions of lives depending on the river,” Doyo asserted. However, according to Hadija

Lepayo, one of the community leaders, the three counties are dissatisfied with the delays in the development and enactment of comprehensive County-level Climate Change Adaptation Policies by their leaders. According to Lepayo the project on climate change is fully funded and the county government should look for friendly investors who can spur economic growth in the region. She wants actions taken on rapid climate change mitigation in the region. Lepayo wondered why national Government was interested in the County that they had ignored for many years. She urged women not to tire in their fight to protect the river and its water from any kind of diversion.

Isiolo Governor, Godana Doyo, addresses the media and vows to protect Ewaso Nyiro River to the hilt. (Above) Ewaso Nyiro River Photo: Henry Owino.

“Women in this region walk for several kilometres in search of water during the dry spell and the only source of the precious commodity is the Ewaso Nyiro River,” Lepayo observed. She added: “We do not want to invite more problems, better we prevent it now by refusing that no mega dam construction takes place.” Ewaso Nyiro River flows from Mount Kenya and it provides most of the water flow during long and short rains to the region’s residents. The upper Ewaso Nyiro River Basin is located to the north and west of Mount Kenya. The basin covers an approximate area of 15,200 kilometre squares, approximately six per cent of Ewaso Nyiro North drainage basin. The river flows through Nyandarua, Nyeri, Laikipia, Meru, Samburu, Isiolo and Nyambene being shared by four counties. Currently the land use plan with

in the project area has undergone rapid changes over the past 30-40 years. In Laikipia plateau and on the slopes of Mt Kenya, sub-division of the land into small holders or fragmentation from the original large commercial tracks of land is still being experienced. Settlement schemes have put a lot of pressure on natural resources such as water, vegetation, forests and wildlife habitats. Most of the settlers residing on slopes of Mt Kenya and the Laikipia plateau have introduced land use practices that are not suitable to dry or range lands. The area has undergone significant change with conversion of traditional grazing lands, natural forests and bush lands into smallscale subsistence farms. Due to population explosion, the demand for natural resources has increased exponentially thus affecting peaceful coexistence, human and livestock


health as well as agriculture, tourism, water and energy supplies. The water deficiency has also been associated with less snow on the cap of Mt Kenya that is linked to global warming which is further aggravated by effects of industrialised nations and cumulative effects of human activities. The pastoralists living downstream of the Ewaso Nyiro River are the vulnerable population, heavily dependent on the basin natural resources for their basic survival. Although the residents lack capacity to formulate plans and strategies of optimally utilising the natural resources, they are keen on conserving the rivers.

“We will not accept the mega dam ‘s construction on the Ewaso Nyiro River” Godana Doyo

Executive Director: Arthur Okwemba Editor: Jane Godia Sub-Editors: Carolyne Oyugi, Joyce Chimbi and Odhiambo Orlale Designer: Noel Lumbama, Vida Joan Okumu

Contributors: Charlotte Kay, Omondi Gwengi, Robert Nyagah ,Duncan Mboya, Henry Owino, Mary Mwendwa, Jesse Sikali, Titus Murithi and Caroline Oyugi, Malachi Mutano.

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The Reject Online is a monthly publication of the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman & Child Feature Service

Reject Online Issue 101  

The Reject Online is a monthly publication of the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman & Child Feature Service