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Halting dam projects key to ending mass looting

For a long time, financing of dams and other infrastructure was largely a function of the World Bank and other development financiers. Projects during that era used to take a lot of time with thorough consultations in the areas of environmental and societal impacts. The haggling would be long and the financing would be concessional. Indeed, projects would be wide and far in between with mostly one or two ongoing throughout the country.But that seems to be in the past as a raft of dams are now in the works or already under construction despite a growing worry about burgeoning national debt—now standing at Sh5.2 trillion.A new aspect of the dams is commercial funding that is partly meant to avoid questions associated with the likes of World Bank besides facilitating rent-seeking.At the face it, there is a lot of justification for the dams given that urbanisation is seen as a key way of achieving civilisation and economic development: where water is a key resource needed to sustain the process.The surging water deficit calls for harnessing of the resource for drinking and food production. Initially, that is why a lot of people believed the Jubilee administration was on the right track when it seemed bulldoze the likes of Itare Dam to supply the fast-growing Nakuru town against what was portrayed as parochial opposition.But it is fast turning out that most of these projects were mooted, particularly ahead of the 2017 General Election, to feed the corrupt.On Tuesday, the National Assembly’s Environment committee ordered the halting of 24 such dam projects worth Sh180 billion to pave the way for due diligence as well as compensation of landowners.Parliament, which has the mandate of safeguarding public finances, is right to stop what is looking like a major scam as well as asking watchdogs to investigate.However, the MPs must distinguish between urgently needed projects like those for supplying cities and purely kickback-motivated ones. We, however, commend MPs for taking this initial step and hope that the Executive will act accordingly.

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