News Column

Kenya seeks Sh148bn China loan to build dam

January 20, 2014

Ramenya Gibendi -1

Kenya is in talks with China , seeking funds to finance construction of the country's giant dam, six months after halting work on the project due to cost exaggeration claims. According to a senior official in the Ministry of Environment Water and Natural Resources , the project is only waiting for funds. "An updated, detailed design of the High Grand Falls Dam on Tana River is now complete and work will commence if the Treasury succeeds in ongoing negotiations with China ," said director of water resources, Mr John Nyaoro. Revised project plans seen by SmartCompany put the estimated cost of construction at Sh148 billion, the cash that is being sought as a loan from China ."If China shall not be able to fund it in full, we shall embark on a public-private partnership," said Mr Nyaoro. A detailed report on the project by the Regional Development Authority was finalised on January 8 , following an executive order mid-last year to halt the process for further assessment, said Mr Nyaoro. Deputy President William Ruto said there had been suspicion that some individuals implementing the Sh150 billion project were asking for money that was much more than the cost: "We detected that there were some elements of graft involved in the project. The people who were handling it were not straight forward," said Mr Ruto in Chuka. The 96-kilometre square High Grand Falls Dam will border Tharaka-Nithi, Kitui and Tana-River counties and is to be built at Kivuka along Tana River . The dam is part of the Sh1.5 trillion Lamu Port and Lamu Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor launched in 2012. It would supply water to the proposed Lamu resort city and port while generating between 500MW and 700MW of electricity. According to the new plan, the dam's holding capacity would be enough to irrigate 250,000 acres of land while serving 1.5 million people with water. "It is going to be the largest water storage facility in the country with a holding capacity of 5.6 billion cubic metres of water," said Mr Nyaoro. The single largest undertaking by the government in the water sector will help check perennial flooding in the Tana delta. Its construction will affect at least 4,500 households. Once complete, High Grand Falls will be the second largest dam in Africa after the 5,250-square kilometre Aswan High Dam in Egypt along the River Nile. Up to 100,000 people were relocated during its construction that took eight years (1960-1968), costing $1 billion . It provides irrigation water to both Egypt and Sudan , generates power and checks flooding. Construction of High Grand Falls Dam was approved in 2009 by the government as part of an ambitious effort to build 1,000 water reservoirs across the country in an attempt to revolutionise irrigation-based farming. Its approval, however, threw various government ministries into disagreements as most sought to exercise direct control of the funds while others wanted to be partners. Among the ministries that were squabbling over the project were Arid Lands Development , Water, Agriculture, Special Programmes and Vision 2030 Development.

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Source: Nation (Kenya)

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