Kenya: Leaders Blame Nairobi for Turkwel Dam 'Looming Danger'

20 October 2020

Leaders in Turkana County have raised fears of massive destruction of property and displacement of more than 300,000 people with the Turkwel Dam having attained a 92 percent capacity by Monday morning.

Authorities led by Water Resources Authority confirmed that the dam is currently 92.33 percent full, representing a volume of 1,518,719,500 cubic metres out of the full capacity of 1,644,948,000 cubic metres.

The leaders have put the State to task over lack of a contingency plan to control the rising water level at the dam.

Led by Governor Josephat Nanok, Senator Malachy Ekal and Lodwar Township MCA Robert Lowoko, the leaders blamed the national government for failing to utilise the water from the dam for irrigation purposes to address food insecurity and for domestic use in water stressed villages South of Lodwar town.

Governor Nanok said the dam, which is primarily relied upon to generate electricity, can also support development projects downstream as a way of controlling spillage.

He said immediate steps should be taken so that the spillage is not disastrous to communities living downstream. The governor told the national government to start channelling the water to support irrigation and for domestic use.

"It is time for the national government to reactivate irrigation programmes and boost access to clean and affordable water supply to nearby water stressed villages because it has the capacity. Utilising the water will ensure that the spillage doesn't result in massive destruction, displacement and deaths," Mr Nanok said.

Senator Ekal said he expected that the engineers who constructed the dam were alive to the fact that one day it would fill up and spill over.

"We should be assured that the dam has spillways to control the level of water and that the excess water is emptied into River Turkwel and directed into Lake Turkana," Prof Ekal said.

Shoddy work

"If something catastrophic happens, we will sue the dam engineers for shoddy work."

Mr Lowoko complained that authorities were asking locals downstream to move to higher grounds but were not showing them where to settle.

"As a leader, I have no answers for many Lodwar town residents who are asking me where to settle now that they have been told to move away from the banks of River Turkwel. Relevant authorities should move with speed and provide land for settling people who will be affected in case of a spillover," the MCA said.

Water Resources Authority Chief Executive Officer Mohammed Shurie said the ongoing rains in Mt Elgon catchment have made water levels at the dam go beyond the highest point reached (1139.24 meters above sea level) as of November 12, 2012.

"The authority wishes to notify communities living downstream along River Turkwel of impending floods when the dam starts spilling over. Some 300,000 people downstream along River Turkwel who include residents of Katilu, Kalemnyang, Loyapat, Lodwar, and Nakwamoru and settlements along the shores of Lake Turkana are expected to be displaced," Mr Shurie said.

When it fills up, the water is expected to be directed to Lake Turkana, which is currently flooded and has already displaced 20,000 families.

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