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Environmental and Social Impact Assessment of the Proposed Itare Dam, Nakuru, Kenya

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 4364 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a useful tool for ensuring environmental protection. Kenya legislation, Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA 1999), revised in 2015 calls for Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (EIA) report to be carried out on projects that are likely to cause Environmental Impact.

There are many definitions of EIA. In this report we define Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) “as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers” United Nation Environmental Program.

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The benefits of carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment is that both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved, such as reduced cost and time of project implementation and design, avoided treatment/clean-up costs and impacts of laws and regulations.  Itare Dam being one of the largest Dams that was proposed to be constructed in Nakuru Town, needed EIA process to be conducted to establish its impact.

Source: Daily Nation Kenya, Friday, 1st March 2019

Fig 1.1 Ongoing construction of Itare Dam, Kuresoi South, Nakuru County

Other regulations under EMCA 1999 that permitted this EIA written in 2016 to be undertaken include EMCA (Waste Management Regulation) 2006, EMCA (Water Quality Regulation)2006, EMCA (Water Quality Regulation)2009. (Legal Notice 61) and Air Quality Regulation 2009.

The ESIA was produced by an individual lead expert Eng. Zablon Isaboke Oonge, PhD. The proposed project was written on December 2015 and completed in January 2016. Which leads me to doubt the authenticity of the report written and analysed.

In this report we are going to analyse the factors that are likely to affect the sustainability of an ESIA:

  1. Impact and Mitigation Measures
  2. Public Participation
  3. Regulations and Legal Framework

Therefore, Environmental Impact Assessment according to Glasson et al (2005), is the process of identifying the potential impacts on the environment and human health beyond legislative proposals, policies, programmes, projects and operational procedures that must be communicated.

Literature Review

Impact and Mitigation measures to Ensure Dam Sustainability

Sustainability of dam construction can be attained through proper planning to prevent negative social, economic and environmental impact from occurring. Sustainable plan is “an activity in which man in society endeavours to gain mastery over himself and to shape his collective future consciously by power of his reason.” Edgar, (1984).

The International Commission on Large Dams specified that large dams are those whose height exceeds 15m from the foundation, or if its reservoir is more than 3million cubic meters (World commission on dams 2000). This therefore categories Itare Dam as a large dam. Therefore, proper planning is needed to mitigate the expected negative impact. However, chances of construction of large dams can lead to catastrophic loss for instance social-economic cost, unforeseen geological changes, human health impacts and negative economic externalities (Dorcey et al 1997).

Dams are an instrument for human development, yet there social-economic impact on people, either intentional or unintentional, are potentially considerable (Egre and Senecal 2003). Some of the social-economic impact expected from the construction of Itare Dam is displacement of people since the report highlighted that several people had settled in the land and constructed permanent houses. The people who are to be displaced are to be compensated by the government before the construction of the dam begins. Other social- economic impacts include employment and income during the dam construction phase, change in size and structure of households and ways of using land and water resources.

The ESIA report (2015), also states that there is no project alternative since a feasibility study was carried out in 1998 and considered that the area was suitable for dam construction and Nakuru population needed water. This is quite unreasonable since the population of people has grown from the year 1998 -2015 when the information is being gathered. Therefore, project alternative could have been considered before going on with the project.

To manage the negative socio-economic impact of the dam the government needs to resettle the people who had already occupied the land and compensate them according to the wealth they had gained before the beginning of the dam construction at the site. This is due to the uniqueness of the area and its possession of different challenges (Egre and Senecal 2003).

Dams are mostly associated with unpredictable catastrophes (Hvistendah 2008). This has been highlighted due to the dam potential to cause geological changes during the construction of the dam this may include earthquakes and landslides. To prevent the disaster from occurring suitable planning mechanism should be put in place and proper land survey should be conducted during and after construction.

Negative economic externalities have possibilities of occurring after dam construction. This might force the consumer to pay for the costs directly or indirectly through taxation or increase in fuel prices. To mitigate on the negative impact after construction of the dam, the dam should be identified as a livelihood source. For instance, fish farming can be done in the dam and water can be used for irrigation purposes to nature crops. Through this there will be alternative source of income earning the country profit and the local farmers.

Environmental Impacts during the construction phase will include noise and air pollution which will affect the health of people nearby. Soil erosion due to construction of the dam the soil tends to be weak and is easily lost through erosion which ends up in the river and causes siltation and lowers the depth of the river causing reduced in water quality. (Kristoff 1997., UNCSD,1997), majority of people in the world suffer from water related diseases. This has resulted due to reduced water quality. To mitigate on the negative impact on the environment the workers should be provided with Personal Protective Equipment and, they should come up with regulation that insist on working on less windy days to prevent erosion and air pollution. Come up with standards on the amount of noise the machine can produce during the day and at night.

Fragmentation may also lead to loss of biodiversity (Jianguo et al., 2003). Itare dam being constructed in Mau forest there would be loss of biodiversity which include some of the tree species, crops and animals may become extinct due to land fragmentation. Habitat Fragmentation may also interfere with species reproduction which may affect the life cycle of some of the species.

Public Participation

Significant public participation efforts were made during the ESIA study. A total of nine public meetings were organized, all of which were proceeded with public consultation notices especially during the month of November 2015.  Instinctively, only one meeting at Ndoinet which is near the Itare dam area could be said to have targeted the actual project affected people (PAP). Dietz and Stern (2008) observed that environmental assessment is near impossible without the full participation of the local community and stakeholders. Public participation is a process carried put for the public and residence to share their ideas on the anticipated project to be set up their area. If public participation is not carried out in a proper way it gets difficult for the project to be carried out in a proper way it may lead to conflict among residence.

In the case of Itare dam project public participation was done through consultation at different stages of the project. At inception several government agencies were consulted, Key informant questionnaire was also used at the design stage primarily targeting the personnel from lead agencies based within the vicinity of the dam site and area. After the design stage, consultations were also carried for the project through visits to the would-be affected land owners aimed at informing and discussing with them the proposed Project.


Who is the Public?

The word “Public” has been defined differently by various authors. (Button 2004), Public are individuals who are likely to be affected by the project while Dietz et al (2008), individual, group, or organisation that are willing to participate in activities of the project (Doelle et al 2006). The Itare dam ESIA report (2015), refers to public as data or information collected from the people within the project site who are likely to be affected by the project. It states that it’s a good practice in ESIA to conduct Public Consultations with relevant affected parties.

The EIA report highlighted that several Public meetings were held, and minutes were attached of all the meetings that were held. The meeting held with the residence before the construction took place at the scooping phase and when the final draft was published.


Information conveyed during Public Participation

Public participation promotes legitimacy in decision making and contributes to social equity in the distribution of cost and benefits of a project (Lostarnau et al., (2011). Kenya Legal Notice No. 101, The Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2009, Part II states that the proponent should hold a public meeting with the affected residents to explain the social economic and environmental impact of the project and the residents are to give their views on the proposed project both in written form or verbally.

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In fulfilment to this requirements ESIA (2015) report, described the information conveyance mechanism though public notices and meetings. According to the minutes written during the public meeting which was conducted as a form of public participation and to create audience for the public to air out their views on the dam which was supposed to be constructed. The project proponent spent time talking on the project benefits such as creation of employment and he highlighted that the dam will also produce hydroelectric power that will serve the community. He mentioned of air pollution through dust emission being realised during the construction phase and said mitigation measured of spraying water will be put in place to stop the dust.

The consultant being familiar that the residents are naive and have no knowledge about the environmental impact the proponent could spend more time talking of the positive and negative impact anticipated during the project and how they will mitigate on the issue.

The chance for the public to ask questions was scarce given a maximum of about twenty questions per meetings. No obvious evidence of fullest public participant (Dietz and Stern, 2008) given the large number of people in the area. Further, the nature of questions seeking to be addressed revolved around economic benefits such as employment, compensation and corporate social responsibility. 

The questions asked reflected on the fears the population had of the neighbouring county not endorsing the project and they also wanted a clarification if they will be employed during the construction. This clearly illustrate that the proponent and the contractor did not get any information about the area which the EISA process is supposed to do. Contrary to the aim of ESIA, public participation did not save the proponent money of collecting data and therefore, they can get more elaborate information from the citizens. The Instrumental citizen illusion, (Wesselink et al., 2011), in decision making was hence not substantially agreed. Through public participation it makes government decision legitimate, since ideas of the citizens has been put in place.

On closer analysis, the Elders and Civil Society Organizations (NGO’s) were not particularly consulted hence did not participate in the ESIA process, creating a recipe for confrontation (Birkland, 2015).  This scenario played out in a lawsuit filed by community elder and NGOs (The Standard Newspaper, Kenya, 22nd Oct 2018), claiming that public participation was not conducted to the community members and stakeholders who are likely to be affected by the construction of the dam.  They averred that the dam construction in the Mau Forest was not sustainable since it was going to lower the water level hence depriving water to the people living in the neighbouring regions such as Kericho and Bomet Towns. The elders wanted the court to stop the dam construction and declare the project a breach of the rules of natural Justice.

The EIA report highlighted that the public were more educated on the positive impact of the dam, but they were not given opportunity to own the project and state their views on it.

Benefit of Public Participation

According to Diduck, Sinclair and Hostetler (2011), there is no better affirmation of democratic principles than encouraging public participation. Public participation carried out in a democratic manner and open to each member of the public creates an easy environment to work and saves the proponent money on data collection. Proper public participation also educates the public on the environment they live in the environmental impacts they should anticipate.

In the case of the dam construction the public will be better aware of the adverse effect and they can share ideas on how to mitigate some of the environmental effects. Involving the public in the process of deciding what to do with the environment they live in gives them impetus to help Okello et al. (2009). Especially to the local community it gives them the idea and knowledge of what to do in the environment to protect the environment.

Proper public participation makes the local people aware of the environment and they become more friendly to the environment in activities that they carry out. During dam construction the residents might help during the windy dry period to water the area to prevent soil erosion this is because they are aware of the environmental impacts and how they can mitigate them. The public get to learn about the changing weather patterns and what they should do during different seasons. They can be able to address arising environmental issues. Eden (2016) acknowledged the fact that meaningfully involving communities in environmental issues improves their awareness. Bryson, Quick, Slotterback & Crosby (2013), the success of public participation begins from the planning phase. From the onset of the EIA process the proponent did not come out clearly and conduct a proper public participation seeking to learn the area and its culture therefore this affected the whole process of the EIA and led to conflict between the residence and the government.

Daily Nation Newspaper Kenya (23rd November 2017) highlighted that the residents are determined to stop the construction of the Itare dam through the interviews they carried out with the residents. The residents claimed that the construction of the dam is causing noise and air pollution to the residents. Paul Schuler (2007), states that governments are knowingly ignoring human and ecological cost when beginning dam projects. This can clearly be depicted by a series of protests that is going on in Kenya during Itare dam project that the government doesn’t give an ear. Residents claim that the construction of the dam utilised most of the water and the dam was fenced off from the community so they could not access clean and safe water, The also claimed that during the onset of the project the proponent promised to supply them with tanks to access to red water from the dam after they fenced it off, which did not happen Daily Nation Kenya, (23rd November 2017). From this article it’s clear that the project construction phase did not implement the mitigation measures put in the Environmental Impact Assessment report. Therefore, causing a lot of harm to the community, both physical and their health.

Why Regulations Matter in Environmental Impact Assessment

Regulations are vital when carrying out EIA process they may include international convections or national legal regulations and standards. Not all the regulations must include legal action but can includes institutional or regional agreements by local and regional committees. The proposed Itare Dam EIA has well listed regulations both regional and national regulations that were binding and protecting community

Water resource regulations are important to protect the adverse negative impacts associated with dam construction and the controversy around dam. The framework of dam debates clearly resides around human rights, Principle one of Agenda 21, (UNCED, 1992) places people at the centre of development, and justify the inclusion of health concerns in all development of policies and recommends Environmental and health impact assessment (UN 1993), developments and healthy environment. The EIA experts should always put the regulations in place when coming up with the report to protect human right and the environment.

Regulations are also important since they provide guidance on translating policy into practice. The help us move from traditional, top-down, technology based focused approach to advocate significant innovation in assessing options, managing existing dams including process of accessing reparations and environmental protection, gaining public acceptance and negotiating and sharing benefits. This process will ensure that the interest of the public has been put forward.

Constitution of Kenya, 2010 provides a description of bill of rights, land and environment, land and natural resources and the protection of fundamental Rights and Freedoms of individual. All these parts make detailed policy guidelines touching on human rights and subsequent enjoyment of the said rights. Consequently, Vision 2030 as a national blue print for period 2008 to 2030 aims to transform Kenya into middle income country with consistent annual growth of 10% by the year 2030. These pieces of legislation were correctly document in the ESIA report.


The analysis of the report and the on-going Itare dam project concludes that the project has massive impact on people and the environment for instance loss of land, resettlement, deforestation and diseases). The dam project is yet to make its impact more tangible to the community by its objective to supply water to the residence of Nakuru and its environs.

The project major environmental impacts such as soil erosion, noise pollution and reduced in water quality and quantity is due to failure to incorporate some of the mitigation measures they had suggested in the Environmental Impact Statement. Political interference in the process of construction of the dam has also had a negative impact on the social environment of the project and therefore the project failing to meet its objective.

In conclusion, by the end of the construction phase of the project. The project will be able to meet its objective by providing surplus quality water to the residence of Nakuru and its environs and provide hydroelectric power which will assist communities and businesses.


  1. The interest of the public should always come first when conducting and environmental Impact assessment.
  2.  The community should be given a chance to air their views on what they think of the project and if they support the project.
  3. The project consultant when addressing the public, they should always focus on letting the public be aware of the environmental impact associated with dam construction.
  4. Mitigation measures being put in place in the Environmental Impact Statement should be adhered to during the process of construction of the dam.
  5. Policies and regulation put in place should always aim to protect the right of the people and their environment.
  6. The project proponent should establish a complaints and grievance mechanism for resolution of conflict between the proponent and PAP and community participation
  7. The proponent should engage NGOs in pre and Post ESIA approval project monitoring and in ensuring public participation in the implementation of EMPs


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