Kenya: Fears of Disaster as Walls of Dam in Tharaka-Nithi Crack

7 November 2019

Residents of Kanthanje village in Igambang'ombe, Tharaka-Nithi County are living in fear of a possible bursting of a nearby earth dam that is in a "deplorable state".

The walls of the 20,000 cubic meters dam that was built at a cost of Sh16 million to irrigate over 70 hectares and benefit at least 200 families have several cracks and with the ongoing heavy downpour, there are fears they could burst.

A few meters from the dam are several homesteads, Kanthanje Primary School, Kanthanje Secondary School and Kanthanje Dispensary.

NOT COMPACTED

According to the residents, the walls of the dam were never compacted during its construction a few months ago.

They added that that the dam's spillway has been directed towards their homesteads.

Kathwana Catholic Parish priest, Fr Jerad Mugendi, said the contractor did a very shoddy job, putting the lives of the locals into serious risk.

"The government should act immediately before we have an ugly incidence as that of Solai Dam in Nakuru County where flood water killed 48 people, maimed others and destroyed property worth millions of money," said Fr Mugendi.

He said the dam sits on land owned by the Catholic Diocese of Meru but the administration of the church was never consulted before it was established.

NO IMPACT ASSESSMENT

Tharaka-Nithi County National Environment Management Authority (Nema) boss Joseph Kamau said before building of the dam, an environmental impact assessment was not done.

He said the walls are in a deplorable state, exposing the surrounding population to a big risk of being carried by water in case it bursts.

"When I look at the walls of the dam I remember the Solai Dam tragedy and we can't wait for such an incidence again," said Mr Kamau.

He said Nema will either recommend improvement of the dam or a total closure after consultations.

County Commissioner Beverly Opwora said the government will act swiftly and make the necessary arrangements to ensure the safety of the residents.

She asked the area manager to always monitor the status of the dam and report any sign of danger.

"I urge the parents to make sure that their children keep off the area to avoid drowning or other tragedies as we work on other safety measures," Ms Opwora said.

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