It is now becoming a common feature in the newspaper to read an individual or a group of people also known as Project Affected Persons (PAPs) raising concerns how infrastructure development projects are being implemented in their locality. From Kitui, Kajiado to Turkana local people have raised issues about these projects in their areas. To some bureaucrats, financiers, investors and contractors PAPs are unreasonable, narrow minded, short sighted and as described by Nation newspaper columnist recently ‘a group with over exaggerated sense of rights’. Why do PAPs emerge with grievances in the middle of the project implementation and how best can their issues be addressed?
People are now more informed than before when community rarely asked questions but instead clapped for any kind of development coming their way. The cases that have been highlighted in the media, has exhibited limited lack of involvement, engagement, participation and consultation by between the state agencies concerned and the people.
Currently people in Kajiado are not happy and are seeking same treatment as other areas when it comes to compensation for way leaves (power lines) to pass through their area. Consulting the locals and even undertaking an exchange program would have helped reduce misunderstanding between the organs concerned. The Standard Gauge Railway project is also bound to encounter similar challenges since most of its land have either been grabbed or encroached after many years of being partially in operation. The conditions set by the financiers of the project are not known to the PAPs. The institutional frame work should as much as possible work to address emerging concerns during the appraisal stages.
Kenya’s geo strategic locations and recent discovery of oil and other minerals has and will ‘force’ the government to rethink how best to strengthen its position in the region by investing in infrastructure and to improve the living standards of its citizens so as to attract more investment. Any good citizen will support the state when it comes to development but the government should protects it people against exploitation of any form.
There has been a lot of encroachment on land set aside for development in different parts of our country and this calls for proper engagement mechanisms to developed from appraisal to implementation stages. If today we are to implement rehabilitation of Nairobi River Project be sure that from Kibera to Mathare that there will be thousands of people to be relocated.
An extensive public consultation for PAPs can be an expensive affair but also very beneficial for the success of any project. Social development specialists must play a critical role in highlighting community concerns during Environmental and Social Impact Assessment since this will show a significant connection between the project being implemented and the community. Building schools, hospitals and boreholes goodies should go a step further by education and creating more awareness about the real benefits of the project being implement. As a society it will be naïve not to expect a person who is just about to be dislocated or whose property will be affected not to raise any concern.