NGO Coalition on Sondu-Miriu HEP

Monday, April 9, 2001

April 4, 2001
Hon Darius Mbela, Chairman
House Committee on Energy, Communications and Public Works
Parliament Buildings, Nairobi

Dear Honourable,
RE: Public Hearing on Project Affected Peoples As you may be aware, the implementation of the above project has nearly reached the end of phase one and the project contractors together with the implementors are about to embark on the second and final phase. However, phase one of the SMHPP has unfortunately been marked by a series of controversies and valid grievances from the affected communities, and its implementation has been anything but smooth.

As a result of complaints raised by the project affected peoples, the project implementor (KenGen) together with the contractors (KVM) organised a community baraza involving all stakeholders including the affected communities, the NGO Coalition, representatives of the project funders–Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Provincial and District Administration, on 26 January 2001 at the Base Camp. During the deliberations of the Baraza, the affected community members were given a chance to air their grievances pertaining to the project. The major outcome of that Baraza was the formation of a Technical Committee with membership drawn from the affected communities, KenGen, and KVM witha mandate to look into the community grievances with a view of resolving them. However, due to the apparent failure of the project contractors and the implementor to act on these grievances, we on behalf of the affected communities, the Community Based Organizations and the NGO Coalition on SMHPP request you and your Committee to visit the project and if possible set a day or two, to hear directly the communities' grievances to allow your Committee make a balanced decision.

We would be grateful if you could consider our request sympathetically and act on it as soon as possible. The main grievances by the project–affected people are as follows:

1) Land Purchase The project implementers are not abiding by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Land Compensation and Resettlement Plan which were prepared by a consultant on their behalf. For instance, it is included in those project documents that people were to be asked before either their lawyer or a reputed NGO (and they mentioned an NGO called Action Aid) to choose either "land for land" or "cash payment after proper valuation". The above procedure was not followed and instead the Provincial Administration was used to force people through intimidation and harassment to accept the implementer's payment figures. The payments were also made on a selective basis. Some people got more and others who were actually entitled to more were paid less. In short, there was no transparency and accountability in regards to the payments made to displaced persons.

2) Compensation for Loss of Income It was agreed in the EIA and other initial project documents like the Feasibility study, that there was to be compensation based on annual income generated from the purchased land. Such compensation was to be calculated on that basis for a period of 20–25 years.

3) Pollution and Damages by Explosives The communities were assured that they would not suffer from dust and other pollution caused by construction works. Currently, there exists serious pollution as you can see in the attached medical report from the Provincial Public Health Officer, Nyanza Province. The use of explosives to make the tunnels has caused houses, shops and even a leading church to crack.

4) Water The project contractors have diverted river Miriu and are discharging untreated water which have been used in the construction work back to the river. This has led to the extinction of local fish species, like Okoko, Ningu, etc., which were once abundant in the river. The affected communities have been given a access to a few water points which cannot cater adequately for their domestic needs.

5) Employment It written i the initial project documents that in regards to employment priority would be given to the affected people of Nyakach, Kasipul–Kabondo and Karachuonyo. As it is, hundreds of youths from displaced families have no jobs and so far only 17% of the total workforce is from the affected communities. The other 83% are from outside the three constituencies that are most affected. It is also very serious that some project–affected people have been misled by corrupt employees of the implementors and the contractors to sell livestock and other assets to offer as bribes before being employed.

6) Salary It was agreed in the above mentioned documents that unskilled labour would be paid shs225/– per day (we originally demanded shs.300/–) while the semi–skilled were to be paid shs.400/– per day. The workers are currently underpaid and even skilled workers like engineers have at one point been forced to resign in mass.

7) Health It was also agreed that since the influx of migrant labour would increase the population and with it new diseases in the project area, all health centres were to be expanded and upgraded and new ones were to be built if there was need. No such effort has been made and the current health centres cannot cope with the pressure.

8) Roads (Main) It was agreed and the public repeatedly promised that the Sondu–Kusa road would be tarmacked. Currently, the heavy construction equipment used in the project have caused more damage to the Katito–Kusa road and so far the Sondu–Kusa road has not been tarmacked.

8b) Feeder Roads: It was agreed that since the project was destroying old feeder roads, it was to leave behind new feeder roads. This has not been done.

9) Compensation for Boat Owners There are families who have depended on transporting people across the river for generations. We had demanded that their compensation be worked out by an expert and be paid for loss of earnings. We understand they are now being paid secretly and this is not proper.

10) The Affected Areas to be Left With Electricity It was originally agreed that as electricity was to be brought from Ahero or Sondu or Kadongo, local electrification would begin immediately. Implementers have now abandoned this plan and have installed generators, which they intend to remove as soon as the project is completed and leave the area in "total darkness" while using their resource will be used to provide electricity to others elsewhere. This would be grossly unfair, inequitable and exploitative to the maximum. The project–affected people would like a very urgent intervention on this critical matter.

11) Project Auditing Our people, as Kenyan citizens and patriots, have had groups that have been monitoring delivery of equipment and payment of services and we are not satisfied that this two exercises have been carried out transparently and in an accountable manner. Therefore, we are asking for the project to be audited by:

a) Kenya Auditor General, and
b) an audit firm of international repute

This is vital as we do not believe that the funds released for phase I of the project is already used up. Moreover, the auditing exercise would be in the interest of the Kenyan public (as taxpayers) and the Japanese Donors.

12) Community Services It was agreed that since the project would seriously disrupt normal life in the area and was seriously going to interfere with the sacred and mythical site of Wan'g ODINO , the community were to be provided some services in return. For example, income generating programmes for the youth and women, improving the old pier at Kusa, etc. These have not been done. We hope they can be done in Phase II of the SMHPP.

The above are among some of the grievances the affected communities will present to you during your visit.

At this point, we want to strongly refute the claim by some institutions that the affected communities or the NGO Coalition supporting them are in any way opposed to the project. In fact, as Kenyans, we want to emphatically point out that we need the Sondu–Miriu electricity for national development. However, to make us work in accord with you and other government officials, we appeal to you to please accept the above requests from the affected communities, requests which are in tandem with the minimum standards in the implementation of projects of such nature and magnitude.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Argwings Odera
Project Coordinator
Sondu–Miriu Advocacy Campaign.

Encl: Report of Provincial Public Health Officer, Nyanza Province

c.c. Japan Bank for International Co–operation
Kenya Electricity Generating Company
Konnoike – Veidekke – Murray & Roberts
Embassy of Japan
Friends of Earth Japan


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