On January 21, 2015, Athi Water Services Board (AWSB) held a public consultative forum at Golden Palm Hotel, Kenol in Murang’a County. The main objective of the forum was to give an outline on the Northern Water Collector Tunnel Phase 1 construction set to begin in February 2015.


AWSB is a State Corporation under the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources with the mandate to promote socio-economic development; and to plan and develop water and sanitation facilities to ensure the progressive and rapid realization of the right to water and sanitation by citizens of Kenya. The area covered by Athi Water Services Board includes the Nairobi Metropolitan Area that generates over 60% of Kenya’s GDP giving it a national strategic importance.

To ensure objectives on water and sanitation are realized, AWSB prepared a Water Master Plan 2012-2035 that is now under implementation with the objective of ensuring water supply security for Nairobi City and its satellite towns. To ensure 24/7 supply to every consumer, a distribution master plan is being developed to guide the planned upgrade of the distribution system in the City. The Sanitation Master Plan 1998-2020 now under implementation is also being reviewed and updated in line with emerging land use changes and patterns.

The Northern Water Collector will be located at the upstream of Aberdare Forest and is designed to solve water problems and increase water supply in Nairobi with a capacity of 140milion litres of water per day.

The Northern Collector Tunnel Phase 1 comprises of  construction of 11.8 km, 3 meter diameter water diversion tunnel from Maragua River to Thika Dam, three intakes and diversion weirs on Rivers Maragua, Gikigie and Irati, 40 m drop shaft, two adits 270 m and 740 m long, and Tunnel Outfall on River Githika and construction of concrete weirs 4 meter in height with associated energy dissipation structures and other erosion protection works in perennial rivers subjected to regular flood events; and work output for bulk earthworks is 320,000m3 and for concrete works is 120,000m3.

Speaking at the January forum, Athi Water Service Board Chief Executive Officer Eng. Malaquen Milgo said “The World-Bank funded project will cost KES 6.8 billion and will take 42 months to be completed. The flood water diversion structures will be constructed on these rivers and will divert the water to the collector tunnel. In March 2014, bidding was carried out on the construction of the Northern Collector Tunnel Phase 1 through International Competitive Bidding (ICB) as specified in the World Bank Guidelines: Procurement of Goods, Works and Non-Consulting Services.”

Eng. Milgo stated that environmental impact assessment study has been done to ensure it will not affect underground water. GIBB Africa Ltd has been contracted to undertake the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to ensure that only floodwater is channelled into the tunnel and that downstream demand is not impacted by the project.

Resettlement action plan has been geared up to establish the extent of land acquisition required to ensure that persons affected by the project are compensated. An environmental impact assessment plan has also been put in place. This requires constant monitoring to ensure that adequate protection measures are inserted into the design of the weirs to allow for replanting and nurturing of saplings. This will be done in conjunction with the Kenya Forest Services.

According to Nairobi Water master plan study, Nairobi will require 1.2 billion litres of water daily by 2035. The USD1.9B(Kshs 17,290,000,000) blue print elaborates the least cost water supply infrastructure development options that are sequenced to incrementally meet Vision 2030 targets and beyond (up to the year 2035). The overall goal is to ensure reliability and security of water supply for Nairobi and Satellite Towns.

The Kenya Government’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources is implementing the 2012 Nairobi Water Master Plan through AWSB with support of various development partners.

Phase 1: 2012-2015, Ground Water
Ground water exploration in the proposed Kiunyu and Ruiru well-fields has been completed. Ground water development for Kikuyu, Karuri and Limuru towns are ongoing

Phase 2: 2012-2016, Northern Collector 1:
This is a new bulk water supply for Nairobi City to deliver 140,000m3/day. It comprises: the Northern Collector Tunnel I, (NCTI), to divert defined flood flows from rivers Maragua, Gikigie and Irati into Thika Dam i.e. Ndakaini Dam: raw and treated water transmission pipelines up to Kabete, Water Treatment Plant (WTP) at Kigoro and a component to upgrade the Nairobi city water distribution system.

The tender for tunnel construction has been awarded. The NCT I is a new raw water transfer 3m diameter tunnel along the eastern fringes of the Aberdare Conservation Area approximately 60 km north of Nairobi, Kenya. The tunnel will transfer raw water from intakes at the Maragua, Gikigie and Irati Rivers to an outlet at the Githika River near Makomboki, upstream of the existing Thika Reservoir.

The final design for the pipeline is ongoing. A design-build package is being assembled for WTP at Kigoro to fast-track implementation of the component. Priority works on the distribution upgrade have been identified and design is in progress. Phase 2 works are expected to be complete by December 2017.

AWSB is implementing the Murang’a Water Supply, Gatanga Water Supply, Gatango Water Supply, Kiambu Water Supply, Ruiru and Juja Water Supply that form part of the Northern Water Collector Tunnel project.

All projects under phase 1 and 2 are supported by the government of Kenya, World Bank, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) KfW bank group.

Other interventions within Phase 2 include Ruiru 2 dam (40,000m3/day) and Karimenu 2 dam (70,000m3/day) proposed to be undertaken under Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC).

Phase 3: 2017-2020, Maragua dam and South Mathioya Collector Tunnel:
Phase 3, to yield 140,000m3/day, is proposed to be implemented as three components:
• South Mathioya collector tunnel
• Maragua 4 dam, (WTP) at Ndunyu Chege and transmission pipelines
• Thika (Ndakaini) dam-Ndunyu Chege raw water transmission pipeline

Phase 4: 2021-2025, Northern Collector II:
Phase 4, to yield 120,000m3/day, shall comprise:
• Extension of the Northern Collector I tunnel
• Expansion of WTP at Kigoro
• Duplication of transmission pipeline from Kigoro to Kabete
• Ndurire transfer to Ruiru 2 dam

Phase 5: 2026-2029, Ndarugu I system
The key components comprise Ndarugu I dam, WTP, pumping stations and pipelines with a projected yield of 216,000m3/day. The plan proposes to supplement this system by another 181,000m3/day through construction of a Chania-Komu transfer tunnel to enable expansion of the Ndarugu WTP, Pumping stations and pipelines to Nairobi City.
Water Projects to benefit the people of Murang’a
    Project name    Cost (KES)    Capacity               Impact    Status
1   Murang’a water supply    KES. 749 Million 102km of pipeline and two water treatment plants
    To benefit about 230,000 people
    Construction commenced
2    Gatanga water supply    KES. 264 Million
    36km of pipelines laid, Construction of Treatment works    To benefit about 30,000 people
    Construction commenced
3    Gatango Water supply    KES. 170 Million
    36km of pipelines
    To benefit about 30,000 people
    Procurement in Progress

The floodwater diversion structures to be constructed on rivers Maragua, Gikikie and Irati, are designed to divert floodwater respectively to the collector tunnel. Construction of the tunnel has commenced with the signing of the contract for construction to China Ghezouba Construction Co. on 1st September 2014.

Pipelines will be constructed so that the Thika-Kigoro pipeline will be for raw water and the Kigoro-Ngethu pipeline will have treated water.

Downstream works commencing in 2015 include:
i. Water Treatment Plant at Kigoro estimated to cost KES. 4.7billion
ii. Raw and treated water transmission pipelines, 66Km long, estimated to cost KES. 5.8 billion
iii. Upgrade of Nairobi water distribution estimated to cost KES. 3.8 billion
Source: Northern Collector Tunnel Project Brief for proposed groundbreaking (AWSB)

Concerns of the people of Murang’a County

Murang’a County Assembly Speaker, Leonard Nduati Kariuki, chaired the January 21st forum. He allowed the members of public and County Assembly to air their concerns on the project. First, it was the Governor of Murang’a County, Mwangi wa Iria who insisted that the Northern Water Collector Tunnel has to be accessible to all people of Murang’a County and a proper framework has to be laid out especially on benefit sharing to promote sustainable revenue collection and accessibility.

Speaking at the forum, Murang’a County Senator, Kembi Gitura accused AWSB of failing to conduct public awareness on the project and address fears that the tunnel might affect flow of rivers from which it is meant to draw water in the county. He added that before the project begins, there must be conclusive environmental evidence that it will not affect normal flow of the three rivers, Gatie, Maragua and Gikigie from which it is meant to draw their water.

Women Representative, Murang’a County, Sabina Chege wanted to know why AWSB was tapping water upstream of the Aberdare Forest. To this, Athi Water replied that it was in order to minimize pumping costs and have a direct line to Thika Dam-Ndakaini Dam.

The Murang’a County Assembly had previously suspended the project, with MCAs calling for fresh talks and binding agreements with AWSB before implementation. During a previous stormy session, MCAs termed the project “secretive” arguing that both the County government and the Assembly lacked adequate information on how it will be executed.
Also in attendance was MP of Maragua, Peter Kamande and Eng. Francis Ngokonyo, who stood in as a stakeholder.

Resolutions of the stakeholders forum on 21st January 2015 at Kenol

At the forum, the members of the public together with the County assembly put forth the following nine resolutions;
That a Joint Technical  Committee appointed by the Murang’a County Government made up of representatives from the  County Assembly, County Government, AWSB, National Environmental Managemant Authority (NEMA), Water Service Regulatory Board (WASREB), and Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) be established to evaluate the Northern Water Collector Tunnel and submit a report to the County Government.

That the County Government of Murang’a engages a team of consultants and legal experts to analyze and evaluate the Northern Collector Tunnel and submit a report to the Murang’a County Assembly for approval within 30 days.

That the Murang’a County Assembly Committee Report adopted by the County Assembly be fully implemented.

That the County Government of Murang’a expedites the process of establishment of a bulk Water Service Company to manage bulk water resources in the County.

That Athi Water Services Board should conduct adequate public participation, engage the County leadership and involve the relevant County Officials of Murang’a in the project implementation and planning before commencement of the project.

That Athi Water Service Board and the County Government makes arrangement for use of all suitable rock extracts from the tunnel for upgrading the Roads in the County.

That Athi Water Service Board and the County Government negotiates and enters into an agreement before commencement of the project that will include benefit-sharing arrangements and submit the same to the Murang’a County Assembly for approval.

Athi Water Service Board rather than Tana Water Services Board to serve Murang’a County in its entirety.

That all the concepts for water supply schemes funded by Athi  Water Service Board be submitted to the Murang’a County Government for consultation and approval by the County Assembly.

Lastly, Kenya’s water sector is struggling to curb the high number of cartels operating around the country. On January 19, 2015, Athi Water Services Board reported that they will introduce a new component in the water tariffs pricing to help raise money for infrastructure development and to improve service delivery. For this reason, Nairobi residents will bear the ache of paying more for water thus increasing the cost of most city households.

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