"THE IMPACT OF SONDU-MIRIU HYDRO-POWER PROJECT
ON THE PEOPLE OF NYANZA" prepared by the AWN (March 2000)
THE IMPACT OF SONDU-MIRIU HYDRO-POWER PROJECT ON THE PEOPLE OF NYANZA
REPORT ON THE ADVOCACY AND CIVIL RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
AFRICA WATER NETWORK
P.O. BOX 10538
Sondu-Miriu River, one of the six major rivers in the Lake Victoria basin, drains a total area of 3470 km2 in the western part of Kenya. The river originates from the western slopes of the Mau Escarpment and flows through a narrow gorge, penetrating the Odino Falls before entering the flood plains of Nyakwere where it drains in to the Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria.
The Sondu-Miriu HEP Project is located about 400 km from the capital city of Nairobi. It covers six sub-locations with a population density of 500 people per square kilometer. The Kenya Generating Company (KenGen) plans to divert water from the Sondu-Miriu River into a regulating pond with a capacity of 1.1 million cubic meters.
This water will then be led into the main powerhouse via a 7.2-km tunnel. The project is in its civil works stage involving the construction of campsites, roads, bridges, communication implements and the blasting of tunnel.
Africa Water Network (AWN) has, since August 1999, appraised the environmental and socio-economic effects of the project. The goal is to study the impact of the project on the people and to nurture and strengthen grassroots and human rights movement by building the capacity of the affected communities to adequately comprehend and articulate their grievances.
The AWN objectives include:
After extensive assessment of the on-going construction and a series of meetings with the affected communities, it is apparent that the project has not adequately addressed various environmental and socio-economic issues.
Community grievances include, among others, the secretive manner in which the project has been imposed on them without meaningful consultations: lack of access to vital project documents; improper valuation of their land; inadequate compensation; rampant corruption in staff recruitment; lack of health facilities given the prevalence of respiratory, water-borne, and water related diseases associated with the project; lack of alternative water sources; river water pollution, indiscriminate destruction of forests, the destruction of their cultural sites such as the magnificent Wanfg Odino (Odino Falls); and lack of commitment to provide them with electricity as earlier promised.
With the emergency funding from Oxfam GB, AWN has initiated an advocacy and civil rights campaign around the above grievances.
AWN has organized and facilitated the following activities:
a) Advocacy Workshops
Three advocacy workshops were organized for the affected communities. During the workshops, AWN facilitators outlined the World Band guidelines on involuntary resettlement and how they relate to the Sondu-Miriu HEP Project. This was followed by specific cases of infringement form the affected member of the community.
The advocacy workshops culminated in the election of a community advocacy committee.
The mandate of the committee includes:
b) Committee Meetings and Site Visits
Two committee meetings have been held to explain their role in the advocacy campaign. The meetings were followed by visits to particular sites where the committee members interviewed the affected members of the community and recorded their grievances. The AWN facilitators also organized a committee visit to Wanfg Odino (Odino Falls) to sensitize them on the importance of the falls, both as a cultural shrine and a potential tourist attraction.
@@@c) Launch of Community Declaration
The launch of the community declaration, scheduled for 28 February 2000, was disrupted by armed policemen who arrested the advocacy committee members and some journalists, among them two foreign journalists reporting for Asahi Shimbun and Kyodo News Agencies. AWN facilitators, accompanied by the community advocacy group chairman and more journalists, who reached the meeting venue after the arrests, launched the declaration amidst cheers and jubilation from hundreds of community members who had gathered the launch.
After the launch of the declaration, six armed policemen in a KenGen vehicle ambushed AWN facilitators, more committee members and journalists. The team was ordered out of their vehicles at gunpoint and taken to Ahero Police Station where they were accused of gparticipating in an illegal meeting.h They were later released without charge.
4.The Way Forward
AWNfs assessment of the above activities indicates enhanced community capacity to comprehend and articulate their grievances regarding the project. As a way forward AWN proposes the following short, medium and long term strategies:
This will facilitate the collection, consolidation and presentation of community grievances to the project implementers, donors, government and the press, among other interested parties.
The assessment will reveal independent gfactsh as opposed to present gclaimsh on the environmental and socio-economic impact of the project. This will also be a strong back up for the community grievances.
Massive loss of farmland, coupled with destabilization occasioned by involuntary resettlement is bound to push the already poor communities into abject poverty.
AWN proposes poverty eradication programs to restore incomes of small-scale farmers through innovative farming practices and provision of water for domestic, livestock and irrigation purposes. The programs will also target small-scale businesses.
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