NAIROBI, MAY 8 —Kenya Electricity Generating Company has come out to explain the role of the dams it uses for hydroelectric power generation along the Tana River in mitigating flooding downstream, denying claims that it opened stop gates causing flooding in residential areas.
This follows criticisms from a section of local leaders in areas affected by flooding downstream of KenGen’s stations.
At the same time, KenGen has set aside funds to help alleviate the suffering of those adversely affected by the floods in the areas near its installations in the Seven Forks particularly the Tana River, Garissa, and their immediate environs.
The company said besides generating hydro-electric power, the Seven Forks Cascade dams which include Masinga, Kamburu, Gitaru, Kindaruma and Kiambere have helped to regulate river levels and reduce flooding down-stream by storing significant volumes of water.
“We wish to inform Kenyans that we have been mitigating flooding through a water management plan for regulating the storage and discharges to ensure a healthy ecosystem and less flooding during heavy rains,” said KenGen managing director Rebecca Miano.
The CEO explained that the water management plan entails lowering of the water levels in the dams during the dry season to create more storage space before the rainy season begins.
This, she said, will mean that water flowing into the dams has to fill up the empty capacity first before the dams can overflow and channel the water back to the river course.
“This plan greatly delays the onset of flooding as well as the amounts of water that overflows the Kiambere dam after filling up, effectively reducing the intensity of flooding downstream,” she said.
“The guiding principle of the company is to conduct its business in the most socially and environmentally responsible manner. We therefore wish to state that there has been no deliberate release of water by KenGen as has been erroneously stated by some people,” Miano added.
This year though, there were reports of heavy inflows into Tana River downstream of Kiambere dam, resulting in flooding in the lower Tana River Basin, before the dam started overflowing on April 24, 2018.
According to KenGen, the overflow which went on for five days was due to heavy inflows from rivers Mutonga, Kathita, Mara and Ena in addition to seasonal streams. The overflow stopped after the intensity of rains in the area between Kamburu and Kiambere dams subsided.
“We prayed for rains during the prolonged drought and God answered our prayers to bring rain, we now need to exercise extreme caution, especially those living near rivers whose banks are prone to overflowing. If necessary, take precautionary measures including moving to higher grounds,” said Mrs. Miano.
Meanwhile, the Nairobi Securities Exchange listed company has promised to help affected families within the Seven Forks cascade through provision of emergency relief supplies.
Last month, the company issued an alert through the offices of county commissioners, warning communities downstream of the Seven Forks dams of impending floods due to heavy rains in Mount Kenya, and the Aberdare catchment areas.
The purpose of the warning was to request residents living on the banks of Tana River to move to higher ground for safety and avoid destruction of their property and potential loss of life.
“KenGen always issues flood alerts to communities downstream when it sees water levels rising, but not because gates are being opened. This is done in good faith in the hope that communities can take precautionary measures and avert flood-related losses and risks,” said Mrs. Miano.
“It is worth noting the unusual rainfall pattern prevailing this year, in that the Masinga dam is not yet full. The dam level was 1,052.94 metres at 06.00 hours on May 7, 2018, meaning that the reservoir has more than 3.5 metres to go before attaining full capacity.
“At the current inflow rates, the reservoir may attain full capacity by 1 May 16, 2018.” Miano said.
In normal circumstances, the dams fill from Masinga first and then gradually the successive dams, which according to KenGen has not been the case this year.