By Luka Binniyat
About 20 Kaduna communities are set for a showdown with the Federal Government for failing to fulfil its promise after being removed from their ancestral land on which the N60 billion Gurara Water Intake Dam was built.
The communities, who issued a three-week ultimatum to the Federal Government, said they would block the dam supplying water to Abuja, about 75 kilometers away, and stop the ongoing construction of ancillary works connecting the 30MW power plant on the dam to supply power to Kaduna.
Leaders of the communities spoke under the banner of Kuturmi Unity Development Association, KUDA, saying they had lost about 34 people through boat mishaps on the dam, blaming the tragedy on non-filfilment of the promise to build alternative roads to link relocated communities to each other and to major roads.
The National President of KUDA, Mr. Dikko Danlami, and the Secretary General, Mr. Kure Ishaya, said they were not bluffing about the threat, as their youths would carry out the intended actions if government failed to return to the negotiating table for a concrete agreement.
“The Gurara Dam Water Transfer Project located at Asawai/Doka, Awon District of Adara Chiefdom in Kachia Local Government Area started construction work in 2001 with about 95% of the project sited located in Kachia Local Government and the remaining 5% in Kagarko Local Government,”they said.
Danlami and Ishaya continued: “The 95% aspect of the dam is on Kuturmi soil.
“During one of the initial consultative meetings organized by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) the host community (Kuturmi) demanded to know our fate in view of the environmental impact assessment of the project on our people and land. Rather than tell us the negative impact of constructing the dam, we were regaled with how we will benefit from electricity, roads, social amenities, improved fishing and irrigation farming scheme. However, not satisfied, we presented our agitations which were accepted during the consultative meetings.
“At subsequent consultative meetings, the host community was told that the project will provide about 2000 hectares of land to replace our land that will be submerged by water reservoir of the dam; that the fishing ground to us that would be the best around and 10 megawatts will be stepped down for our people from the electricity to be generated from the dam; “that our youths would be gainfully employed by the project construction firms and the Gurara Dam Management Agency;”that the project will provide roads network, potable drinking water, health facilities, schools and other developmental opportunities.”
“Based on these promises, the KUDA chieftains said, the host communities embraced the project without knowing that later development would put a lie to most of the things promised.
According to the, after the dam was completed and commissioned, most of the promises were ignored.
“Out of the 2,000 hectares of land contained in the contract agreement, only 84 hectares have so far been developed. The 3,000 hectares of land earmarked for Jere in Kagarko Local Government fall outside our community and are almost completed. Why not ours?
“On the hydro electricity generation of 30mega watts, only 10 megawatts was promised to be stepped down for the host communities. But government is now saying it will not do so anymore because of its high cost.
“The FMWR promised that fingerlings would be raised and put into the dam, but up to date nothing has been done.
“Pipe born water is transferred from Gurara Dam to Lower Usuman Dam in Bwari for onward treatment and distribution to residents of Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) and environs but not even a drop of pipe borne water has been made available for our domestic use. Most of our people have now been afflicted with water borne diseases as a result of drinking contaminated water from the dam reservoir. Efforts to have the authorities provide us with a mini-water treatment plant at both the lower and upper dam reservoirs proved abortive. It is immoral and unjustifiable to take water, treat it and sell to Abuja residents while the host communities are left to drink contaminated and deadly/poisonous water.”
The Kuturmi people also accused government of refusing to build roads to link the displaced persons, thus forcing them to use boats and canoes to access neighbouring towns.
“We have lost not less than 34 people as at this rainy season through boat mishaps”, Danladi and Ishaya said.
“In view of all these and the fact that operation of those handling the construction of the dam is about winding up, we the Kuturmi communities staying around the dam are constrained to issue a three – weeks ultimatum effective August, 31 2014 particularly to the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to revive the Gurara Dam stakeholders consultative meeting so that all grey areas would be resolved for the smooth completion of all components of the projects. This we believe will help avoid any demonstration by the youths as contained in their several correspondences”.