Thwake Multipurpose Dam construction rolls out key mitigations to tackle effects of Climate Change
Availability of clean water, sustainable food security, clean power generation, sanitation and hygiene are regarded as key cornerstones and critical determinants of socio-economic development that will catapult the Government’s Big 4 agenda, Vision 2030 blue print and United Nations – backed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The ongoing construction of Thwake Multipurpose Water Development Program (TMWDP) – expected to be implemented in four phases – is poised to fulfill these long-term development ambitions for the country and propel the Lower Eastern parts of Kenya on the cusp of development and human dignity.
Key player in Climate Change mitigations
The execution of this program, not only has come at an ample time to support government’s agenda, but is being rolled out at a time when the country is facing challenges of climate change. Lower Eastern parts of Kitui, Makueni and Machakos, like most areas in the world, have been victims to volatile and erratic weather patterns – regarded as a hallmark of climate change. Residents have witnessed climate change phenomena manifested through prolonged droughts, rampant flooding, severe storms, heat and at times cold seasons.
Indeed, this complex and critical program, set to transform Makueni, Kitui and parts of Machakos, and being funded by the Government of Kenya (GoK) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) through Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation, has laid out a robust strategy aimed at mitigating effects of climate change even as the construction process in ongoing.
When the government rolled out this program – touted to be one of the largest dams in East Africa – residents of these counties saw it as the missing link and the panacea to their “decades – old water question.” The Government is fully cognizant of the importance of mitigating climate change and all the necessary actions are already put in place.
The program is already promoting use of clean energy where the project contractor has implemented environmentally friendly energy sources such as solar panels, regarded as more effective and efficient to achieve Zero Carbon Footprint. Through Social Afforestation Tree Planting Program, the project staff have continuously rolled out a program of planting trees. In a move aimed at empowering communities living around Thwake Multipurpose Dam through social afforestation program, a section of staff recently carried out a massive tree planting exercise targeting schools, dispensaries and local administration offices.
The exercise which took place between, June 9-11, 2021 saw hundreds of tree seedlings distributed to seven primary and secondary schools, three local administration camps and a dispensary. “We are today engaging different schools in this social afforestation drive. We want to instill the importance of environmental conservation among these learners. It is critical that we create catchment for rainfall since this area is semi-arid,” said Faith Nzimbi, an Environmental Engineer, working for the Contractor who spoke during the exercise.
The United Nations blue print on sustainable future – dubbed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – is at the core of Thwake Multipurpose Water Development Program’s processes and procedures on issues of environmental degradation, sustainability, climate change, and water security. “Climate change is real and that’s why we need to properly conserve our environment. Kenya is a signatory to the SDGs and we want to achieve at least 10 percent tree cover. We must reverse the climate change for normal weather pattern,” added Alex Tarus, an Environmentalist working for the Consultant, when he spoke on the material day.
This is part of the Greening Program exercise where the contractor is advised to develop and implement a tree planting program in schools and other government institutions by providing tree seedlings as part of community social responsibility and social afforestation initiative.
Climate Change Warriors
At Thwake Multipurpose Dam construction site, tree planting by key government visitors aims at encouraging afforestation thus compensating the vegetation destruction that was done during bush clearing to pave way for project construction which currently involves construction of the dam embankment and associated works.
Other mitigation measures put in place by the program involves establishment of Climate Change Warriors – a critical team anchored on components of trainings and awareness creation on matters of climate change. The program has also ensured efficient operations of equipment using fossil fuels and a ban on open-air combustion for all waste on site. The contractor and subcontractors are implementing a maintenance program for all earth-moving machines, vehicles and other fuelpowered equipment to reduce pollution of environment. Involvement and engagement of the county governments, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders who work in climate change sector to achieve the intended goals, is a priority which has been put in place by the program as well.
Application of 3Rs Mantra
The program staff have also been engaged in conducting information dissemination, campaigns and awareness about climate change to the communities living around the project site and staff too, where they encourage the residents on the importance of Reduction, Recycle and Re-Use Mantra, commonly referred to as 3Rs Program in solid waste management.
The program is also controlling blasting by ensuring the contractor applies suitable rationing of explosives and detonators that will ensure complete use of ammonia nitrate during explosion process thus reducing amount of nitrogen released into the air.
River Catchment Clean-Up Exercise
Worldwide projections indicate that every populated basin will experience changes in river discharge and many have experienced water stress. The magnitude of these impacts is used to identify basins likely and almost certain to require proactive or reactive management intervention. And this is exactly what the ministry in doing for Athi River and other catchment areas for the dam.
Conservation and clean-up of river catchment is at the core of Thwake Multipurpose Dam project initiatives to ensure the water that will feed into the dam – once fully constructed – is clean. Towards this, the Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation is committed to improve sanitation upstream of ongoing construction of Thwake Multipurpose Water Development Program Phase I by investing in a number of interventions – both long term, medium term and short term. This strategy is on course and already being carried out by an Inter-Agency Technical Committee on Athi River Protection and Pollution Control and Management.
The team is mandated to generate possible action lines that will be implemented to control pollution problems in Nairobi Basin Rivers which feed into the Thwake Dam. The team includes Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Athi Water Works Development Agency, Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company, Nairobi Metropolis Services (NMS) and Water Resources Authority (WRA).
It has held several strategic meetings looking at the possible catchment conservation and rehabilitation activities to protect the dam from siltation.
Some of the ongoing initiatives to control pollution of Athi River include pollution hotspots identified and mapped by Water Resources Authority (WRA) and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
Water Resources Authority has already pegged some riparian areas and is in the process of pegging more areas for protection and there is an ongoing project of sewerage connections in Kasarani area The technocrats in the ministry -– which acts as the guide kid in this key enterprise – opine that indeed, Thwake Multipurpose Water Development Program will critically transform the socio-economic enterprise of residents of these regions. The lower eastern parts of Kenya have suffered rampant water scarcity for decades, coupled by drought and famine therefore affecting millions of residents – especially women and school goingchildren.
This is why the Government of Kenya – through sustainable water infrastructure development mantra – strategically places Thwake Multipurpose Dam as a key player in this ambitious drive. The program will ensure access to safe drinking water, healthy meal preparation, sanitation, health and industrialization for the residents of Makueni, Kitui and parts of Machakos counties. With clean and sustainable water, communities will flourish and agricultural initiatives will be possible for the thousands of residents.
By By Godffrey Olali – The writer is a Senior Communications Specialist for Thwake Multipurpose Water Development Program. The article was published in the Sunday Nation, August 1, 2021 (Climate Action Supplement)