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There has been a big misconception that dams cause floods, but the reverse is true, in many regions around the world, dams have purposely been constructed to mitigate floods that are among destructive natural disasters that occur as a result of excess water in flood-prone regions.

In Kenya, a case study to demystify the role of dams in controlling floods can be cited from the Seven Forks Dams that are in the Eastern part of the country.

For decades, the Seven Forks Dams in the lower Tana region of the Eastern part of Kenya have been known for power generation by Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen). However, what many people are not aware of is that as much as the dams are used to produce electricity, they also play a key role in mitigating flooding downstream during extremely rainy seasons.

How does the Seven Forks Dams in the eastern region work to mitigate against flooding?

The concept around dams controlling flooding is simple: the reservoirs hold huge amounts of water that could have naturally flown downstream, therefore filling rivers and breaking banks. For the case of the Seven Forks cascade, five such dams are involved in this concept whereby once each dam reaches its maximum levels, the excess water naturally overflows from one dam to the next through the natural river channel.

Masinga is the main reservoir and the first dam in the cascade with a capacity of 1.56 billion cubic metres. The dam, commissioned in 1981, has a power plant that generates 40MW of electric power and besides that its reservoir occupies a surface area of 120km2. With this amount of storage space, the dam can hold a lot of water, thereby lessening excess flows in the downstream region.

Water from Masinga dam is conveyed to the next dam - Kamburu which was commissioned in 1974. Kamburu generates 94MW and has a capacity of 150 million cubic metres with its main sources of water being Masinga Dam and River Thiba. With the addition of water from the River Thiba, more water is likely to spill downstream, but it is conveyed to the next power station (Gitaru) through a 2.9-kilometre tailrace tunnel.

Gitaru dam, with a water capacity of 20 million cubic metres holds more water from going downstream. Here, this water is harnessed to generate 225MW, making this plant the biggest hydropower station in East Africa in terms of installed capacity. Water from this dam is then passed on to Kindaruma, the oldest power station in the cascade via an underground 4.7-kilometre tailrace tunnel.

Water from Gitaru and other seasonal rivers feeds the Kindaruma dam which was commissioned in 1968. Currently, this dam hosts the first major power station in Kenya with an installed capacity of 72MW and once it overflows, water is conveyed to the last dam in the cascade which is the Kiambere dam.

Kiambere dam was commissioned in 1988 with an installed capacity of 168MW and has a water holding capacity of 585 million cubic metres. As a way of mitigating floods, the dam has a natural spillway, a low-level outlet at the main dam, an emergency spillway and intake at the saddle dam. The emergency spillway is provided to mitigate against extreme floods. After this dam, water flows naturally downstream to River Tana, then to the Indian Ocean.

That said, these dams have over the years continued to hold huge volumes of water that would have otherwise caused major floods in the lower region if allowed to flow freely. After KenGen Hydro-electricity dams, the Government through its development agenda has proposed to build more multipurpose dams in the lower parts namely: Mutonga and Low Grand Falls dams that will further combine forces with the current five dams in the Seven Forks to help in mitigating floods in those areas. This is the way to go.


The fast and ever-changing human demands coupled with emerging uncertainties such as the COVID-19 pandemic have served as a stuck reminder on the need to innovate. As a way of ensuring business continuity and sustainability, most organisations have had to embrace innovation with the majority integrating it in their operations, and processes.

However, while many organisations acknowledge how imperative innovation is to their operations and success of their businesses, awareness of the approach to achieve the same is an aspect that needs to be amplified. This raises the question how can organizations build their innovation culture.

A look into Kenya Electricity Generating Company’s (KenGen) innovation journey showcases some approaches that organisations can adopt. Since 2012, the company has received hundred of innovation proposals. At the same time, beyond ideation, KenGen has moved forward to making the innovations commercially viable contributing directly to the bottom line. Financially, KenGen has earned revenues to the tune of Ksh.2.6 billion from commercial innovation initiatives over the last nine years.

So how has the company managed to attain these milestones?

1. KenGen’s Innovation Platforms

Just like other innovative companies such as Google that have incubation programs, KenGen has nurtured a culture of innovation and structures within its operating environments to encourage and reward employee-led innovation.

The company has created innovation platforms such as Ignite, Global Innovation Seminars and Community of Practice and Innovation (COPI) whereby different ideas and concepts are born and nurtured to maturity.

For instance, as at June 2021 the Ignite Platform which gives employees opportunity to participate in future developments at KenGen through submission of ideas – has generated more than 532 innovative ideas since 2012, 16% of which are best practices for process improvement while 71 of the ideas are undergoing implementation process.

2. Rewarding Innovation

Reward, in simple terms, is anything given to people because of their contribution to the organization or areas of work. On the innovation front, KenGen has utilized rewards to motivate staff to bring on board more innovations under various categories.

Under this initiative, the company offers the following awards;

· Terawatt Award - This award goes to individuals or teams who implement innovation initiatives that result in new revenue generation.

· Gigawatt Award – This award goes to individuals or teams who implement innovation initiatives that result in cost savings.

· Megawatt Award – This award is given to individuals or teams who implement process improvement ideas that result in turn-around efficiency.

· Kilowatt Award – This award is given to exemplary leaders who go beyond the call of duty to support the implementation of innovation initiatives.

· Watt Award – This award goes to recognize individuals or team effort that had the courage to pilot, prototype or test an innovation initiative that did not result in success but lessons.

3. Creating a Project/Innovation Funnel

A Project Funnel enables participating entities to sieve or filter ideas from a general point of view to a workable state. At KenGen, the company has developed a funnel with five approaches which include Concept, Prefeasibility, Feasibility, Financial Appraisal and Development.

At the Concept stage, an analysis of the idea is done before it proceeds to the prefeasibility level whereby the best project options, both technically and financially is done. Thereafter, a detailed study on the feasibility study is undertaken to determine technical, financial and environmental feasibility. At this stage, a decision is made whether the project can be done or not.

Once a project has been approved at the feasibility point, financial appraisal is conducted and relevant stakeholders are involved. The development of the project then comes last. The final stage is the development stage whereby the project is implemented.

4. Embracing Innovation Leadership

The role of leadership in an organizational innovation journey is imperative. This aspect is what inspires others to innovate and bring out their best.

Organisations can emulate KenGen’s approach through which the company has a Strategy and Innovation Division which has a role of identifying and driving execution of strategic initiatives and growth opportunities across the business through research and development. At KenGen, focus on continuous improvement is key in driving the innovation agenda that develops new ways of meeting the company’s goals and aspirations.


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