Lady Justice Grace Kemei of Lands and Environment Court in Thika gave interim orders suspending the government’s Gazette Notice No 1644 dated February 10, 2023, that sought to acquire land for the construction of the dam.

John Mwangi Kariuki, James Muchai, W***y Githua, Patrick Kariuki and 485 other affected land owners named National Land Commission (NLC), Athi Water Services Board and China Bridge Corporation (Contractor) as respondents in the suit.

In the petition, the 489 landowners protested the move by the government to gazette their parcels of land for use in the Ndarugu project without their consent.

In her ruling, Kemei pointed out that contrary to respondents who had earlier told the court that the gazette notice was for the purposes of carrying out a geophysical survey on 22 parcels of land in order to determine whether the area would be suitable for the construction of the dam, the contentious notice was intentioned to acquire the properties for purposes of the construction of the water project.

“The court is satisfied that the petitioners have disclosed a case to warrant a grant of interim orders and I proceed to grant the same in terms of prayer number three of the said application that is to say that an order be and is hereby issued suspending the implementation of gazette notice number 1644 dated February 10, 2023, being the intention to acquire land for the construction of Ndarugu II dam project in Kiambu County pending the hearing and determination of the suit,” ruled Kemei.

Kemei directed that the petition before the court would be heard on May 11, 2023, in what continues to stall the Ndarugu project that the government hopes to use to mitigate drought by impounding water for irrigation and domestic use during dry seasons.

The petitioners are seeking orders to declare that the process of implementing the construction of the Ndarugu II dam as having been marred with opacity, lack of information and suppression of free, prior and informed consent.

The land owners also want the court to declare that the exercise by the respondents threatens and contravenes the national principles of transparency, accountability, public participation and the rule of law under Article 10 of the constitution.

They have also applied to have Athi Water’s staff, agents and employees barred from trespassing on their land in Gathaite, Watathi, Mwimuto, Gatei and Kanjuku villages.

According to the committee spearheading the anti-project process, the government failed to engage them since the proposal for the construction of the dam.

Led by John Mwangi alias Muteti, the land owners’ representatives insist that the court route is one among many plans they have choreographed to fight the project they claim is set to impoverish them as they are used to richly farm on the required land.

“The government has contravened the law by imposing a project on us without even seeking our input. They have absolutely failed to engage the p****e from which the project is proposed to be put up. The fact that they have ignored the public participation policy is unconstitutional and we will not allow it to happen,” said Mwangi.

“The government is out of ideas on how to harvest rainwater. There are better ways of supplying water to the p****e without building dams and we are ready to show them how. It has been done in other countries such as Singapore, and Malaysia among others so Kenya will not be the first country and we are ready to show them how,” Ng’ang’a Muthua, a committee member said.

Gatundu North MP Elijah Njoroge who had joined his constituents during the hearing exuded confidence that the court will uphold public interests while ruling on the matter.

Njoroge said that landowners who have been affected by the project have vehemently opposed it and that they will not give an inch of their land to the government.

The MP raised concerns that the Government through National Lands Commission and Athi Water Services Board is out to arm-twist locals into ceding their land for the project only to be denied their due compensation.

“The government has up to date not compensated all Karimenu II dam affected persons. Those who left their land for the construction of Mama Ngina University in Gatundu South are also suffering as the same government has never paid them. It is wrong for them to lie to my constituents that they will get the right pay even before they finish compensating persons affected in other projects,” said the MP.

Ndarugu II dam is among the 100 mega-dams that President William Ruto’s administration is riding on to mitigate the raging drought occasioned by the shortage of rain.

Should the government manage to convince the affected persons, the 50m height water project will be the first one to be implemented before the other dams are built and is scheduled to boost water supply to various towns in Kiambu and Nairobi Counties.


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