By Daniel Kituku
A new committee will be formed to re-evaluate compensation rates offered to more than 2,600 residents of Makueni and Kitui counties to be displaced to pave way for the construction of Thwake Multipurpose dam.
Chair Tanathi Water Services Board Peter Ndwiga said the committee that will bring together professionals from both counties, officials from the Tanaathi , valuers, local leaders from the affected regions and the Ministry of Water will be tasked to revisit land and property valuation for the Persons Affected by the Project (PAPs).
The formation of the new committee has been prompted by complaints from the PAPs over the previous valuation process in which they accuse the valuer, Mwaka Musau Consultants of shortchanging them.
Ndwiga speaking at the proposed site in Mavindini said the new committee findings will be harmonized with the previous valuation report to help arrive at agreeable rates.
“If there will be enough resources we will definitely heed to the cry of the people and we shall seek professional opinion on this matter,” he said.
He added that compensation was the main obstacle to the implementation of the project and disclosed that the new committee will have only two weeks to complete it works and present the findings.
Ndwiga assured residents that proper compensation will be done before the start of the project and urged leaders not to politicize the projects.
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana underscored the need for the project but noted that the resettlement and compensation plan should be given the first priority.
Kivutha said the residents and the national government must agree before the project kicks off.
“The sponsor of the project, African Development Bank (AfDB) does not want people to be displaced forcibly and things must be done in the right manner,” said the governor.
He added proper procedures should be followed during compensation to avoid family wrangles and urged the national government to collaborate with the two county governments to seek an alternative land for compensation if possible.
“It would have been better to give alternative land to avoid scenarios where families squander the compensation money and later become squatters,” said the governor.
Also present was area MP Daniel Maanzo who accused certain forces of wanting to poorly compensate the affected families.
“The parliamentary committee on environment has no problems with proper compensation and I wonder who is blocking payments to our people,” said Maanzo.
He vowed that the dam will not kick off before everyone is well compensated and asked the beneficiaries not to sign the land acquisition agreement before all the money is paid.
More than 200 residents from the affected regions led Kalawa MCA Patrick Kithale recently held demonstrations to protest against what they termed as poor land compensation rates by Tanaathi and vowed not to move until the rates are reviewed upwards.
The residents argued that the earlier compensation rates of Sh100,000 per acre were unacceptable.
“We will not accept the offer,” said Paul Makuu a resident and PAP chair.
The dam to be constructed at the confluence of Athi and Thwake river and sponsored by ADB will cost Sh42B.