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China-backed dam project powers Kenya vision for tech city

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-21 10:06
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Kenyan officials assess progress on the construction of the Thwake dam. Photo provided China Daily

Construction of the first phase of a major hydroelectric dam in Kenya is nearing the halfway mark, with the Chinese-backed project promising to provide water and power supplies for a technology-driven city taking shape under an ambitious development plan.

The Thwake Multipurpose Dam is being built by China Gezhouba Group Company, or CGGC. It is integral to the plan for Konza Technology City, which the government approved as a development project in 2008.

Xiong Wentao, CGGC's project manager for the dam, said the project is a key element of the Kenya Vision 2030 economic development blueprint for the country. It will provide the water for hydropower generation for Konza, as well as its irrigation needs. The project will also benefit the nearby counties of Kitui, Makueni and Machakos, Xiong said.

"The project will be implemented in four phases. Phase one involves the construction of the dam and preliminary works for the implementation of the subsequent three phases," he said.

"Phase two will involve installation of a hydropower generation plan. Phase three will see the installation of water supply system and phase four the irrigation system. Phase one, which is underway, is currently at 45 percent completion."

The dam, rising up at the confluence of the Thwake and Athi rivers, is funded by the Kenyan government and the African Development Bank.

Key enabler

Julius Muia, Kenya's national treasury principal secretary, said the Thwake project will serve as a key enabler of what he called the government's Big 4 Agenda, as well as the Vision 2030 blueprint.

"This project is poised to benefit around 3 million rural inhabitants of the three counties of Makueni, Kitui and parts of Machakos as well as the envisioned Konza technopolis," Muia said.

Muia said internship programs for students would aid in skills transfer in work associated with the dam's construction.

Xiong said the main features of the project will include a 77-meter-high dam wall and the provision of 34,600 cubic meters of water. With this capacity, some 40,000 hectares can be irrigated in Makueni and Kitui counties.

Piped water will be supplied to Konza and adjacent towns, said Xiong, adding that the project will generate 23 megawatts of hydropower.

"Once completed, it will greatly relieve the lack of electricity and water for domestic purposes and the irrigation needs of over 3 million people in the Konza technopolis, Kitui, Makueni and Machakos counties," he said.

CGGC is also working on a project will that will improve water supply and sanitation services for the national capital Nairobi, Xiong said. For this goal, the company is building water collector tunnels.

"Once completed, it will provide a clear water resource to Nairobi. The main tunnel of the project is 11.7 kilometers long and 3 meters in diameter," said Xiong, adding that nothing of that scale has been attempted in Africa before.

He said the company aimed to carry out more such projects in Africa and contribute to the continent's sustainable development.

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