NGO Coalition's Memorandum to the Japanese Delegation
on the SMHPP (Sep 3,2001)
NGO COALITION ON SONDU-MIRIU HPP
3 September 2001
MEMORANDUM TO THE JAPANESE DELEGATION
We, the Coalition of NGOs working with the local communities in Sondu-Miriu, welcome the Japanese delegation to Kenya. We also acknowledge and appreciate the continued support by the Japanese Government to the people of Kenya. We hope your visit will add impetus in seeking fair, just and permanent solutions to the SMHPP. The Coalition has played and continues to play an active role in seeking permanent solutions to issues of concern raised by the project-affected communities. However, it is unfortunate that after several Technical Committee meetings, most of the issues of concern to the affected communities, have not been resolved by the project implementers. We therefore once again, call on the implementers to genuinely engage in resolving these problems in order for the project to proceed smoothly and expeditiously. Taking that into account, the following issues need to be addressed urgently by the project implementers:
The Coalition feels that the reports of the TC are general and do not draw proper professional conclusions. We are therefore asking that the following issues be referred to independent professional experts: air pollution, soil erosion, noise and water pollution, deforestation, effects of river diversion on the riverine ecosystem, silt depositions, etc.
Irrigation and Flood Control
The Coalition also emphasizes the need for the implementers to initiate flood control and irrigation projects on all the affected areas to curb further degradation of the environment. The Coalition also wishes to emphasise that in order to undertake an effective environmental impact assessment, irrigation and flood control must be implemented in the project affected area as it is full of gullies created by years of soil erosion.
We believe that these are issues that the local communities will live with for years and the NGO Coalition therefore calls on the World Bank to assist in finding solutions.
The Coalition wishes to point out the direct relationship that exists between environmental degradation and poverty. Increased incidences of water and air related diseases due to degradation of the environment in the project area is forcing the local communities to spend money on health, e.g.medical treatment, that would otherwise have been spent on other developmental issues. This we find very ironical because the overall objective of the project was conceived as a poverty reduction project.
Mau and Koguta Forests
The Coalition is also aware of plans by the Government of Kenya to excise the Mau Forests - the cachtment area for River Miriu. The fact is that, despite the High Court injunction to halt further excision, people have already been settled in the Mau catchment and indiscriminate logging is going on. Also the destruction of the Koguta Forest to pave way for construction of the tunnel is going to interrupt the general microclimate of the area that will lead to serious local weather repercussions leading to food insecurity. We would like to inform the visiting Japanese delegation that the NGO Coalition condemns the wanton destruction of the Mau forest - the catchment area where the source of River Miriu is located, as it will make the SMHPP a white elephant sooner than later. This country and in fact, the Nyanza region, does not need another white elephant. It is too costly for Kenyans and for our national development.
Land valuation and improvement costs
In view of the complaints regarding how land was valued and payments made, and the fact that details on payment for improvements were decided un-transparently, there is need for an independent panel of valuers to interview all people who were displaced in order for them to be adequately and promptly compensated. The valuers should also check whether discriminatory payments were justified.
Employment and economic opportunities
The NGO Coalition is disappointed that the Technical Committee's report does not reflect the Employment and Economic Opportunities Technical Sub-committee findings nor does it reflect the discussions and decisions which were made regarding re-structuring of the personnel management and recruitment functions including the disciplinary measure which were proposed by the TSC. In view of the above, we are therefore proposing that:
a)Recruitment of workers be done in the presence of a Government Labour Officer. The community Advisory Committee like Nyakach Community Development Association (NYACODA), Sondu Miriu Advocacy Group (SMAG), Sondu Miriu Community Monitoring Committee (SMCMC), should also be present to ensure that local interest is protected. Equal opportunity should be given to everyone affected;
b)That preference be given to affected communities when young men and women are being taken for training;
c)That workers should form a committee to negotiate their wages and work conditions with the support of the Electrical and Allied Workers Union. This committee should meet periodically to review workers conditions and welfare;
d)That a Sub-Committee be formed to look into the past grievances of workers and how to resolve them;
e)It is important that the persons who were identified as responsible for corruption and mismanagement be removed immediately.
We do not accept the TC report that the community will only get electricity when the power will have a step-down at Kibos! We feel that the step-down should be made part of the project and located at the projected site. Besides, contrary to allegations by KenGen that it would be difficult to have a step down at the site owing to too much power, professional consultation indicates that it is much easier to step down electricity at the source. The electrification of market centres, health centres, schools, social centres, etc should be part of the community benefits derived from the project as was promised to the project affected communities and for which, their goodwill for the project was secured. The Coalition wishes to state that it is against Nippon Koei commissioning the project in 2003 before the promises to the affected communities, that form 20% of the entire project are fulfilled.
We members of the Coalition insist that the entire Thur Dibuoro and the Sondu Kusa Roads should be tarmacked as initially agreed and not 3.5 kms being planned by KenGen. We also demand for the re-carpeting of the Katito/Kendu- Bay Road that has been extensively damaged by the heavy-duty trucks being used during the construction phase of the SMHPP.
Up Grading of Health Centres
The NGO Coalition is calling for the improvement of the existing health centres in terms of facilities and capacity. This is due to the recorded high incidence of water and air borne infections precipitated by construction at project. It ought to be understood that increased rate of disease out break is directly contributing to poverty in this area since affected persons are investing every cent in the pursuit of their health management.
Rural Water Supply.
The NGO Coalition registers its disapproval of KenGen's failure to lay water pipes to supply the affected communities with piped water as previously agreed and insists that the same be done as a matter of urgency, due to the deteriorating health conditions of the project affected communities.
The NGO Coalition welcomes the Government of Japan's decision to investigate financial and environmental aspects of the SMHPP. We would be equally grateful if the Project is audited by an internationally reputed firm as well as by the Auditor General of Kenya to ensure that the Japanese tax payers loan is well utilized and benefits the ordinary Kenyans and also that Kenyan tax payers, pay back a genuine loan.
The Coalition further underscores the need for an independent auditor citing the recent financial scandal at KenGen worth millions of shillings, potraying the institution as a corrupt body.
Affected Communities Economic Development
It is important that KenGen and the implementers leave behind successful economic activities. For example, they could leave behind all equipment and facilities they have been using to community cooperative societies. The affected communities should be assisted with funds to establish revolving funds to assist small-scale farmers and business people to access credit to establish enterprises. It also important that the old Kusa Pier should be revived as it would be one of the economic activators. Also the boat people should be given priority in the employment of local communities as they lost their economic incomes due to the project.
Lastly, we would want to bring to your attention the on-going harassment and intimidation of community members and civil society organizations seen to be having alternative views on how best the project should proceed. For example during the last TC meeting in Kisumu (13-14 Aug 2001), one of the members of the Technical Committee from the NGO Coalition was threatened that if he continues to raise "controversial" issues such as those mentioned above, then he would be lynched. Also the NGO Coalition- Project Coordinator of the SMHPP, Mr. Argwings Odera, has had to flee the country for exile abroad, due to excessive threat on his life. The NGO Coalition would like to emphasize that these kind of intimidation and harassment are increasingly tainting the project's human rights record.
While we appreciate that you would want to tour and see the on-going construction exercise, we appeal to you to devote much of your time to talking to the affected communities and visit negatively impacted areas such as Apondo Kasaye (Magazine area) and Odino Falls where visitors are often not taken.
Odino Falls cultural site.
The Coalition is requesting the delegation to visit the Odino Falls, a cultural and religious shrine of the local communities. We at the same time wish to point out the following issues in regard to this Falls:
However we reiterate and warn that the Odino Falls and the Sondu-Miriu Hydro Power Project risk being history if the catchment area, the Mau Complex, is not protected from further destruction.
The NGO Coalition therefore advises that these should be some of the fundamental issues to be tackled by experts e.g. social scientists and/or anthropologists.
We hope that your mission will provide a lasting solution to these problems.
The Coalition wishes to end by saying that it will be the greatest height of betrayal to Kenyans, and the local communities' goodwill squandered to the last point, if the Sondu-Miriu Hydro-Power Project is commissioned before the promises and environmental impact assessment and the socio-economic recovery agreed upon prior to the commencement of the project are fulfilled.
Grace Akumu (Ms)
For and on behalf of: THE NGO COALITION
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