Seth Onyango and Dorcas Mbatia
Water and Irrigation Cabinet secretary Simon Chelugui has backtracked on a decision to cut off water connections in the Aberdare and Mt Kenya regions.
This comes a day after governors from the affected regions protested the dismantling of water abstractors in the catchment areas saying it had disrupted supply.
Water Resources and Management Board (Warma) had disconnected the abstractors after it emerged that rivers were drying up due to overharvesting of ground water.
Chelugui succumbed to pressure and lifted the ban after a crisis meeting with elected leaders from the region and promised to work with them to resolve the matter.
Sources privy to the discussions told People Daily Chelugui was put to task to come up with alterative water source for the communities in the affected regions.
“We were not going to leave here until the CS agrees to rescind the decision to disconnect water,” said the source.
This is after he announced that the government will be seeking Sh500 million from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to boost supply in Central through construction of dams.
Governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) and Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri) said water was a devolved function, hence counties should have been consulted before any decision was made.
Yesterday, Chelugui unveiled an elaborate plan to ensure there will be adequate water supply to both upstream and downstream communities in the region.
In a closed-door meeting that lasted five hours, Chelugui agreed that all legal intakes and permits will be reinstated and illegal abstractions regularised to serve the affected communities.
Photos had emerged on social media showing massive destruction of water connections in the region including those channelled to fish farms which led to the death of some aquatic species.
Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of the consultative meeting, Kieni MP Kanini Kega vowed to ensure fish farmers were compensated.
“It is bad to see fish die because of lack of fresh water supply. We will see to it that full compensation is done,” he said.
Chelugui said the ministry had reached a deal to compensate those affected.
He, however, warned that the government will no longer tolerate illegal water connections.
“We reiterate that illegal abstractions deny communities and the environment the water resources needed for sustenance and should be discouraged using procedures as laid down,” he said.
He said the government will fast-track the construction of intakes to cater for abstractions located around specific areas to eliminate crisscrossing pipelines.
Mt Kenya and Aberdare are the main catchment area for two of Kenya’s largest rivers —Tana and Ewaso Nyiro North.
Meanwhile, South Imenti MP Kathuri Murungi has called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene.
“The President should come to our rescue. This matter needs to be addressed with urgency to protect water catchment areas in Mt Kenya region,” said the South Imenti MP.