KENYA: Inhabitants of Meru, strongly against relocation of water treatment plant

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KENYA: Inhabitants of Meru, strongly against relocation of water treatment plant©ymgerman/Shutterstock

The people of Meru are blocking the project to reinstall the Meru wastewater treatment plant, fearing that the effluent from the future facility will pollute the region's waterways.

There has been a stand-off between some of the people of Meru County and the Kenyan government. The subject of controversy is the relocation and extension of the county’s sewage treatment plant. The government wants to move the sewage treatment plant located near Gakoromone market in North Imenti District to Rwanyange, a farming village. This initiative does not sit well with local residents who are concerned about the pollution that would result from the future facility.

“Our area is a food granary, we harvest and transport tree roots, bananas, sugar cane, cabbage, beans and kale, and fruit that ripens very quickly because the area is swampy. We are demanding that the water treatment plant be installed elsewhere,” says local farmer Stanley Mutwiri in the local press. Like him, many of them fear that their farm produce will no longer be purchased because of the possible presence of a sewage treatment plant in the area.

Legal proceedings

At the project site, all access roads have been blocked by the populations, who are showing fierce resistance. They have not limited themselves to actions on the ground. Legal proceedings have even been launched before the Land and Environment Tribunal of Meru.

“Contamination of water sources is a technical issue that is best contested under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act. The nature of the project requires a thorough review of the completeness of the scientific study for which the Nema (National Environment Management Authority) permit was issued,” explains judge Lucy Mbugua. She suspended the project and transferred the file to the National Environment Tribunal.

AfDB Financing

The legal proceedings initiated by local residents are expected to delay the implementation of the Tana Water Services Board project. The state-owned company has contracted Hankuk Engineering Consultants and Ecosite Development Consultants to carry out the project. The aim is to construct sewerage pipes to the Rwanyange site. On a 16-hectare site, a wastewater treatment plant is to be built, as well as a building housing offices and laboratories. Housing should also be built to accommodate staff.

The new water treatment plant, which is expected to be built at Rwanyange, will replace the North Imenti plant built in 1978. It was planned to serve 20,000 people. Since then, the population of Meru County has increased to 156,000 people. As a result, water overflows from ponds during the rainy season, causing health problems for the population. In addition, “the treated effluent does not meet the biological and chemical standards required for discharge into the environment,” says John Mbogori, the technical services manager for the Tana Water Services Board.

The disputed project will require an investment of 1 billion Kenyan shillings, about $10 million. The Kenyan government is financing the project with a loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Jean Marie Takouleu

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