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A highly classified report by the Taskforce appointed to review the burst Lake Kanyaboli dyke has been leaked. Apart from providing incriminating evidence that the County Government of Siaya entered into a 66-year lease with Lake Agro over the Yala Swamp wetland without conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, the document alleges that all the technical expert recommendations were ignored.

Contents of the multi-agency team report show that Senior Counsel James Aggrey Bob Orengo (above) could be liable to prosecution if he does not act on the requirements of his Deputy Dr. William Oduol Denge. Photo: the Standard

It further reveals that Siaya Governor James Orengo might not only have overlooked the six-point recommendations of the special task force but went ahead to cede 3200 hectares of land to Lake Agro Limited for 59 years without a proper report from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).

The County Government of Siaya is also responsible for single-sourcing a contractor (SAMCO Limited) who does not have the requisite geophysical engineering expertise to undertake technical repair works. According to the taskforce recommendations laid out in the report Lake Agro Limited was charged with footing the cost of the repairs, having interfered with the valve-gate locks of the tertiary weir. Delays by the investor prompted the Busia County Government to offer to undertake the repairs as residents of Budalangi Constituency were severely impacted by the overflow.

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Locks on one of the weirs on Lake Kanyaboli were tampered with by agents of Lake Agro Limited leading to the overflow catastrophe. Photo: NMG

Why the Siaya County Government paid heftily to a single-sourced contractor for work that was to be paid for by the private investor, Lake Agro Limited, remains a mystery.

Tentatively the Governor ceded the land for 59 years to the NLC as the agreement is said to have been mooted in the past 7 years with the previous investor Dominion Farms Limited.

Lake Agro Limited took control of over 6,000 hectares of land in the Yala Delta following a June 14—16, 2022, public hearings at a Siaya hotel by the National Land Commission (NLC) Land Administrative and Management Committee on the objections by the community and conservancy organizations relating to the intent to allocate Yala Swamp.

The committee was composed of Commissioners Reginald Okumu (chairperson), Esther Murugi Mathenge (Vice Chair), Tiyah Galgalo Ali (member) and Prof James K. Tuitoek (member).

In their concluding remarks, the committee strongly recommended to the NLC plenary to allocate up to 6763.74Ha(16,713.6 acres) to Jaswant Singh Rai, the Lake Agro Limited investor, who has since begun sugarcane growing operations on the wetland.

The expansive parcel given to Rai will include 3,700Ha(9142.9 acres) occupied by Calvin Burgess’ Dominion Farms Limited and the contested 3,200Ha(7907.3 acres) more than the investor had requested as a bonus.

Siaya Deputy Governor Dr. William Oduol Denge is showing no signs of backing down in his resolve to fight corruption. He has given his boss an ultimatum to review the lopsided lease. Photo: Deputy Governor’s office

The land parcels given to Rai include the Usonga/Usonga/Block 1/7 (1036.6 acres) Usonga/Usonga/Block 1/8 (6538.4 acres), and Usonga/Usonga/ Block 1/4 (9142.9 acres).

According to the Laws of Kenya, Governor Orengo is liable to be charged with two counts; one of implementing a project without an Environmental Impact Assessment Approval Contrary to Regulation 4(1) (b) of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations 2003 as read with Section 144 of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act chapter 387 of the Laws of Kenya while the second charge is failing to comply with a lawful order or requirement made by an environmental inspector contrary to Section 117(3)(b) as read with Section 173(b) of the Environment Management and Coordination Act chapter 387 of the Laws of Kenya.

Whatever happens now the report has given new impetus to the Siaya Deputy Governor Dr William Oduol Denge who gave his boss an ultimatum to review the 66-year-old lease with Lake Agro Limited (a company associated with sugar billionaire Jaswant Singh Rai) or face legal proceedings being instituted against him.

On Wednesday, September 27, 2023, Governor James Orengo will preside over the marking of International Tourism Day at Kamzungu, Homestay, Oele in Bondo sub-County. Much of the flora and fauna celebrated that day including the endangered Sitatunga (tragelophus spekii) which is domiciled in Yala Swamp. Photo: Nature Kenya

With conservancy organizations, Nature Kenya and the Lake Kanyaboli riparian community, on one hand, pushing for the adoption of the Yala Delta Land Use Plan (2018) and the Deputy Governor on the other asking for a remedy to the obnoxious 66-year lease, Governor Orengo has his back to the wall on the matter of Yala Swamp.

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