A standoff surrounding the construction of the Sh13 billion Ndarugu II dam in Gatundu North constituency has escalated as residents announce their determination to contest the project’s implementation in court.
Residents hailing from Gathaite, Mwimuto, Gatei, Kanjuku, and Watathi villages have strongly opposed the Ndarugu II dam’s construction, asserting that it will result in the displacement of families from their ancestral homes and exacerbate their economic challenges.
In an effort to fund their legal battle against the state, the residents held a fundraising event on Sunday to secure the necessary legal fees.
The controversial dam project has encountered substantial resistance from local residents who are unwilling to part with their land for its execution.
As a result, the residents have taken their grievances to the Lands and Environment Court in Thika, where they have sought an injunction to halt the project.
In court, the residents successfully obtained orders to suspend the government’s Gazette Notice No 1644, issued on February 10, 2023, which aimed to acquire land for the dam’s construction.
The petition, representing 485 residents and led by individuals such as John Mwangi Kariuki, James Muchai, Willy Githua, and Patrick Kariuki, names the National Lands Commission (NLC), Athi Water Services Board, and China Bridge Corporation as respondents.
During her ruling, Lady Justice Grace Kemei emphasized that the Gazette Notice was intended to acquire the properties for the project, contradicting earlier claims by the respondents that it was for a geophysical survey.
Following the fundraiser, the residents, expressing their discontent, called upon the government to consider relocating the project to an alternative location.
They argued that their villages play a crucial role as the region’s food basket, with many residents engaged in pineapple, avocado, tea, and coffee farming.
Led by figures like Wanjiru Wa Kagunyi, Njoroge Mwangi alias Muteti, and Esther Wangari, the residents conveyed their fear of forced eviction, which has taken a toll on their mental well-being, particularly among the elderly population.
Asserting that leaving their ancestral land for the project could have spiritual consequences, the residents declared their readiness for a serious legal battle to ultimately halt the multi-billion project.
“We will never leave our ancestral land, no matter how much pressure the government exerts. The government has ample land, such as forested areas, where they can relocate the project instead of displacing people from their homes,” stated Wanjiru.
Additionally, the residents expressed concerns about the project’s potential to jeopardize food security in the region, as it would consume fertile and arable lands.
“We will vigorously fight for our rights, regardless of the government’s financial strength. We will not relent in our pursuit of justice,” declared resident Mwangi.
The hearing for this matter was postponed to September 28, 2023, by Justice Kemei in May, as some of the respondents had not filed their submissions on time.
Ndarugu II dam is one of the 100 mega-dams planned by President William Ruto’s administration to address drought-related challenges in the region and ensure sufficient water supply for domestic and irrigation purposes. The government contends that the dam will help conserve water for use in homes and farms during dry seasons.