Conning Kenyans

Monday 15 May 1995

Japanese sponsors present Kenyan ngos with a fait accompli on a dam they don't want

NGOS in Kenya are bewildered. In the beginning of March they were enthusiastic: the Tana and Athi River Development Authority (TARDA) and the sponsors, the Japan International Development Agency (JICA), had invitated them to a workshop to discuss the pros and cons of the upcoming hydroelectric power project over River Tana.

However, the 3-day meet which ended on March 22, left them sorely disappointed. "It seems we had been invited to participate merely to lend legitimacy to a decision that had already been made," grumbled Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement, a prominent environmental group in Kenya.

The environmentalists had voiced serious reservations regarding the project. The glaring differences between a report prepared by a JICA study team and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report by a private consultancy agency, prepared at the workshop, shocked them. While the JICA report glorifed the economic benefits of the project and the expected power outputs, the eia spoke of the possible fallout of the project on environment and on the local communities who would be displaced. "Overall...dam construction will hasten the irreversible processes of pauperisation, destitution and conflict," it says. The eia team had also made contacts with the local population, and an overwhelming majority of it prefered to continue their current lifestyle of farming and animal husbandry.

Objections were also raised by the Kenya Wildlife Service, a parastatal organisation responsible for the country's national parks, which said the jica report "forgot" to make an inventory of the flora and fauna of the affected area.

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