Local economic costs of the proposed Isiolo dam: A scoping study

Isiolo County, Kenya
Region & Country

CSF conducted a desk-based study of potential local costs associated with the construction of the proposed Isiolo Dam in the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Kenya.

The dam has been identified by Kenya’s National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation as necessary to improve local livelihood by providing water for domestic and livestock use, small irrigation activities, and in the future, for tourists in the proposed Isiolo Resort City.

However, there has also been opposition to the proposed construction, based on concerns that the dam could expose herders downstream to drought, negatively affect endangered wildlife, and put the local wildlife-tourism based economy at risk.

The Ewaso Ng’iro Basin Stakeholder Forum, composed of conservation sector, business sector, and civil society, has sought further understanding on the risks and opportunities related to the project. This study represents one such effort. Forum members provided data and factual input, but did not carry out analyses or take a role in generating conclusions or recommendations.

The study focuses on the area downstream of the dam, but also quantifies and describes several important economic changes upstream. Specifically, we address three main topics. First, we quantify change in water supply if the dam is built, and then calculate and compare this to demand in the form of current and expected local water use for agriculture, livestock, and domestic uses; we consider historical river flow data, predicted future growth in water demand, and several river flow scenarios following construction in order to describe the magnitude of changes that could be expected. Second, we quantify the impact of the proposed dam on the daily life of herders, by quantifying their expected economic losses due to increased incidence of drought and therefore to increased livestock mortality and distance to water sources. Third, we evaluate the economic impact of the proposed dam on the existing wildlife tourism sector, considering first the adverse effects on wildlife from the project, and the decline in the number of tourists due to a decline in the willingness to pay for wildlife viewing.

The results of this study are necessarily simplified, and do not take into account complex but potentially significant ecological changes and their additional impact on herders, wildlife, and wildlife tourism. However, the analysis included here within the constraints of a desk study suggest that negative local economic impacts may be severe, in turn suggesting that in depth analysis of local ecological and economic impacts is merited prior to proceeding with the project.

Download the full report here.