How Turkwel Gorge Arch Multi-purpose Dam is Serving West Pokot Residents

Turkwel Hydroelectric power station is among the large hydropower plants operated by Kenya Electricity Generation Company Limited(KenGen). It is...

How Turkwel Gorge Arch Multi-purpose Dam is Serving West Pokot Residents
Turkwel Arch Dam. Photo/Courtesy

The Turkwel Hydroelectric power station is an arch dam on River Turkwel about 76 km north of Kapenguria in West Pokot County, Kenya.

It is among the large hydropower plants operated by Kenya Electricity Generation Company Limited(KenGen).

The dam was established in 1991 as a multi-purpose project purposefully for Hydroelectric power production, irrigation, tourism, and fisheries.

River Turkwel originates in the Uganda side of Mount Elgon and drains into Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world.

The Turkwel dam water reservoir draws its water from three main rivers namely; Suam, Kanyangareng, and Konyao.

[Turkwel Arch Dam. Photo/Courtesy]

The Turkwel gorge dam project objectives were to generate 106 MW of HEP, develop 1286 Ha of land for crop production, provide water to people and livestock, and improve the household incomes by subjecting the communities to the much-needed diversification from their livestock keeping as the arid and semi-arid area was unfriendly to livestock.

Kerio Valley Development Authority provided the first bunch of fingerlings and introduced the residents to fish farming which created a new income source and contributed to peace in the community from cattle raiders which caused insecurity.

Years later, residents have embraced fish farming and are calling out for more investments to make it a sustainable economic activity.

The dam is a tourist attraction for both local and international tourists and the residents are able to earn money by rendering boat riding services and selling Pokot cultural artifacts and food.

The Dam spillage has been a major concern due to the heavy rainfall experienced in 2020-2021. The downstream outflow maximum will be 17m3/s. This additional flow to river Turkwel does not meet the threshold expected to cause flooding along the river and Lodwar Town.

The flooding may result from cumulative effects of runoff from other areas such as Loima hills and adjacent drainage sub-basin. Communities have been displaced from the upstream of the dam boundaries.

The authority has put up measures to mitigate the adverse effects of the flood resulting from spillage such as the formation of multi-agency surveillance and response teams, barazas, and sensitization through media for residents to move away from riparian areas.

River Suam draining to the Turkwel gorge and has been affected by high siltation and is feared to dry up in the next 50 years.

Siltation has been linked to environmental degradation as a result of the destruction of water catchment areas and dense soil erosion following the natural landscape of the Kerio region.

[Turkwel Arch Dam. Photo/Courtesy]

The (KVDA) has begun tree planting exercises to protect the upper Turkwel and reduce siltation of Suam River basin. 25,000 tree seedlings have been donated to 16 schools mainly indigenous as part of its afforestation program. 

Kerio Valley Development Authority(KVDA) undertakes the Dam monitoring, maintenance, catchment conservation, promotion of the fishing industry, and other socio-economic activities.

There are ongoing projects to develop state-of-the-art tourist facilities in the region that will see West Pokot county becoming a tourist destination like the coastal towns of Diani and Mombasa. The Turkwel project has achieved its objectives and promoted peace, and economic development, and created job opportunities for the residents as the authority’s vision states, a prosperous, green, and conflict-free society.

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