The controversy surrounding construction of multibillion Itare dam in Nakuru County has deepened.
This is after a group of elders from nine Counties on Wednesday sought the intervention of Chief Justice David Maraga in resolving a case in which they have opposed construction of the dam.
They want the Chief Justice to direct that the case be heard by a three judge bench.
The Kipsigis, Luo, Ogiek, Kuria Councils of Elders, the Abagusii Cultural and development Council through their lawyer James Mwamu made an application before the Environment and Lands Court judge James Ohungo seeking to have the CJ constitute a three Judge bench to hear the case.
The elders drawn from Kisumu, Migori, Homa Bay, Siaya, Kisii, Nyamira, Narok, Bomet and Kericho Counties who are opposed to the project said the weight and sensitivity of the matter necessitated hearing of the matter by more than one judge.
“The matter is of public interest as it touches on nine Counties making it weighty and more sensitive. We want the Chief Justice to intervene and help in deciding on the fate of the water dam,” said Mr Mwamu.
In the case filed in 2016 the elders have sued Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, his Environment and Natural Resources counterpart Judi Wakhungu and the Rift Valley Water Services Board(RWSB) for disregarding necessary steps before commencement of construction of the dam.
They are seeking orders to prevent any construction activities at the site pending the hearing and determination of their case.
In their submissions, the elders claimed that establishing the project within the Mau water catchment area would deprive their Counties of water as rivers flowing through the nine Counties originate from the Mau forest water tower.
The court heard that the Sh38 billion project would directly affect their Counties which they say are at risk of being rendered dry lands.
The six Counties represented by their lawyers had earlier told the court that Rivers Kipchorian, Chemosit, Jamji and Kapsonoi, which flow to Lake Victoria, will be re-directed leading to lack of water during and after the construction of the dam.
They told the court that the petition raised complex environmental concerns that called for the judicial interpretation of laws regarding environment.
Mr Mwamu stated that the State had failed to consider the impact of the dam to even neighbouring counties which benefit from the waters that come from Mau forest.
The application was however, objected by the State lawyer B.O Okang’o who said the constitution of the three judge panel would only derail the matter.
Mr Okang’o said the issue raised had nothing to do with interpretation of the law and only needed application which he said can be comfortably handled by a single judge.
Justice Ohungo however, directed that the ruling of the application be made on July 31.
He allowed the application by the Rift Valley Council of Elders to be enjoined in the case as interested parties and gave them 50 days to file their submissions.