Sh13bn wind farm project runs into headwinds due to cash and politics

Monday March 2 2015

Youths block the Nakuru-Nairobi highway to protest against the erection a wind park in Magumu,  Kinangop last month. Local politics and mistrust is threatening to derail the Sh13 billion Kinangop Wind park power project.  FILE PHOTO | RAPHAEL NJOROGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Youths block the Nakuru-Nairobi highway to protest against the erection a wind park in Magumu, Kinangop last month. Local politics and mistrust is threatening to derail the Sh13 billion Kinangop Wind park power project. FILE PHOTO | RAPHAEL NJOROGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MACHARIA MWANGI
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Local politics and mistrust is threatening to derail the Sh13 billion Kinangop Wind park power project.

The scheme which was first floated in 2004 by Ecogen — a private company — has run into a series of obstacles since then.

The winds are being harnessed in Kinangop, Nyandarua county.

The recent obstacle was the violent protests by residents opposed to the implementation of the project.

Last week, more than 1,000 locals barricaded the busy Naivasha-Nairobi highway for eight hours, demonstrating against the project.

A teenager was shot dead by police after a group of demonstrators attempted to storm Magumu police station to free nine of their colleagues arrested by the police on incitement charges.

TEENAGER KILLED

Ten others reportedly sustained gun shot wounds in the mayhem that saw a vehicle belonging to a senior police stoned and tyres deflated as the situation threatened to degenerate.

Kinangop Wind Park Chief Executive Officer James Wakaba termed the shooting incident as “regrettable”.

The company is developing the wind power firm.

The protests led to a visit by a high powered government delegation led by Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge, who flew to the troubled area in two choppers in an attempt establish the reasons behind the protest.

At the venue of the meeting, an attempt by Mr Njoroge to address the crowd almost fell on deaf years. They shouted in unmistakable unison:

“We do not want the project.”

What emerged during the meeting is a cocktail of grievances, some real and others touching on the absurd.

Despite Nema having given the project a clean bill of heath, the locals maintained it was a health hazard.

“The project will make residing in our farms a nightmare… it will lead to unprecedented miscarriages,” shouted a woman.

THORNY MATTER

The issue of land is another thorny matter that constantly cropped up.

Majority of those opposed to the project were born and brought up in the locality.

They said shifting is the last option for them.

Those who spoke to the Nation and asked not to be quoted for fear of reprisals said majority were opposed to the relocation exercise.

“Leaving the family land I have known for years to start a new life elsewhere is suicidal,” confessed a local affected by the project.

And misconceptions persists.

Some residents are even claiming that their titles have been used by the company to secure loans.

The issue of compensation also remains contentious.

They argue that the first time the idea of wind power was mooted, they were made to believe that those within 750 metres of the project will be compensated.

“The distance was reduced to 130 metres radius. There is more than meets the eye,” said a resident.

The locals say other countries that have implemented the project have located it in areas which are not inhabited.

Area MP Stephen Kinyanjui Mburu was accused of flip-flopping.

He was initially opposed to the project but has now embraced it.

The MP said that most of the contentious issues raised by those affected by the project were thrashed out, hence his decision to throw his weight behind it.

“It unfortunate that local politics are derailing what would be a beneficial project,” said the legislator.  

ORIGINAL PACT

He has held a series of meetings with the affected 500 families who have agreed for the project to go on.

Mr Mburu renegotiated the original pact. In the first pact, residents were to be paid Sh100,000 per year spread in a period of 25 years.

But the renegotiated deal states that they will be paid the money as a lump sum.

That means each farmer will receive Sh2.5 million.

Those who had been paid Sh500,000 will get the Sh2m balance.

 Thirty eight farmers had leased their 40 metres by 40 metres parcels to the company where the masts are being erected.

But if the standoff continues, those to be paid may not get their money.

Last Thursday, a sub committee was formed to look into the thorny issues advanced by the residents after the Tuesday meeting attended by the Energy PS failed to yield results.

At one time, the PS almost lost his cool when addressing the residents after a youth seated in front of him kept shouting.

“Are you affected by the power project?” asked the PS.

The project, which is expected to generate 60.8 megawatts, now hangs in the balance and its continuation will depend on the government and the investor.

PARTNERSHIPS

Two of the wards – Magumu and Githabai where it is located are in Kinangop constituency and the third one, Naivasha East Ward in Naivasha constituency of Nakuru County.

The national government had given it a clean bill of health after it was approved by National Environment Management Authority after an environmental impact assessment.

In 2006, Ecogen teamed up with KenGen and increased the power to 50 megawatts.

The private company however continued to look for investors.

They could not get any and so in 2008 they handed over the project to another private company called AEOLUS.

And the new company established that they could generate 60.8 megawatts of electricity.