Activists want Sh200bn Lamu coal plant halted

Thursday August 4 2016

A worker loads coal onto a truck at the Sanyuan

A worker loads coal onto a truck at the Sanyuan mine in China. The Lamu coal plant is meant to open Kenya’s northern frontier as well as increase Kenya’s power generation capacity. PHOTO | FILE 

KALUME KAZUNGU
By KALUME KAZUNGU
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Environmentalists have demanded that the implementation of a Sh200 billion coal-fired power plant planned for Lamu County be stopped.

Addressing journalists at the Mpeketoni British Hotel shortly after the closure of a three-day conference aimed at reviewing the project, Mr Kiunga Kareko, the Coastal Kenya programme coordinator for World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said there was a need to hold consultations with all the stakeholders first.

The more than 10 civil society organisations met under the ambit of the Lamu County Natural Resource Network.

“I am of the view that Amu Power Company halts this project until there is more understanding on the impact and mitigation measures and also if there is a need for that extra power to be generated since, at the moment, the country has enough electricity to sustain its demand,” said Mr Kareko. “The power that will be produced from coal will be utilised maybe in 2028 or 2029.”

STAKEHOLDERS 'SIDELINED'

Amu Power Company is the firm contracted to implement the project.

Mr Kareko also claimed that key people and agencies such as Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and WWF were not involved in making decisions on the plant. He said it was unfortunate that very few people had been involved, many of them national administrators who were not well-informed about the project.

He said  all the stakeholders should be involved in the research on the project’s effect on environment and human health before a decision is reached on whether to adopt it or not.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has already given a 30-day notice for Lamu residents to read through the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (Esia) report released recently and get back to the agency with recommendations or complaints.

Mr Kareko asked the investors in the project to emphasise wider stakeholder engagement instead of speeding up its establishment.

NO HURRY

Mr Is’haq Abubakar, an activist from Lamu, who attended the conference at Mpeketoni, faulted Nema for giving a short timeline for the Esia review.

“The report issued by Nema is massive as it is more than 1,000 pages,” said Mr Is’haq. “We need experts to assist us in interpreting and analysing it. We need more time.”

He added: “We don’t see why there is such a hurry. It’s not like the country is in dire need of power or anything.”