Leaders from Lamu County and more than 10 civil society groups have joined residents to oppose the establishment of a Sh200 billion coal-fired power plant in Kwasasi, Hindi Division.
Under the banner of Save Lamu, they on Tuesday held a major demonstration to express their opposition to the project.
Activities within Lamu Old Town were halted for almost an hour as the protesters went around the streets holding placards with messages expressing their displeasure.
Lamu Woman Representative Shakila Abdalla, who led the group of protesters, said she is not ready to welcome the project since it is harmful to Lamu people.
Ms Shakila insisted that after careful evaluation, they have come to the conclusion that the coal plant carried little benefit to the people as compared to the risks it poses.
The project which is sponsored by Amu Power Company, a consortium of two co-sponsors, Gulf Energy and Centum Investment, is expected to generate 1,050 megawatts of power once complete.
The implementation of the project is part of the government’s plan of producing 5,000MW of power in the next 40 months.
HAZARDOUS TO ENVIRONMENT
But the leaders, activists and residents in Lamu are accusing the county government, the National Environment and Management Authority (Nema) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) of trying to force the project on them.
Ms Shakila warned that the project will be hazardous both to the environment and the economy of Lamu and promised to lead the Lamu people in another huge demonstration in a week’s time.
“I will not allow our people to be taken in circles. Coal power is harmful to the health of citizens. We need proper public participation so that all of us can give views on the project. Why are they in a hurry to start the project here in Lamu while key groups like the fishermen have not been consulted in any way? We will not allow it here in Lamu,” said Ms Shakila.
Save Lamu Chairman Mohamed Abubakar wondered why the investor has already been given license at a time when the resettlement action plan (RAP) has not been issued to the communities affected by the project.
“The RAP is incomplete yet the license has been given which is contrary to the laws on public procurement. I am aware that the coal plant will result in a discharge of waste-water at significantly higher temperatures back into the ocean.
“The environmental impact assessment report fails to properly analyse what this will mean for the marine life in the ocean. Let them come out and explain this,” said Mr Abubakar.
PUBLIC HEARING VENUE CHANGED
Save Lamu Secretary-General Walid Ahmed said the move by ERC to change a planned venue for a public hearing on the coal project on Tuesday at the last moment was intended to lock out Lamu residents and activists.
“The citizens of Lamu Island are aggrieved by the decision of the ERC to hold a public hearing at a venue inaccessible and unsafe to the communities who have raised objections to the licensing of Amu Power to generate electricity through coal.
“In order to have our voices heard, we are engaging in an alternative public hearing at the initial selected venue by ERC which is at the Sunsail Hotel in Lamu Town,” said Mr Walid.
He said Lamu residents should not be denied the opportunity to be heard on such a critical matter which he said is likely to affect their lives and the environment for decades to come if it is allowed to be established in the region.
“We have been unfairly denied administrative justice and this is contrary to the rights provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya and other relevant legislations.
“We therefore reserve our right to seek other legal avenues to enforce these rights and air our grievances at the earliest opportunity,” he said.