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Coal plant verdict healthy

Friday June 28 2019

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The cancellation of the licence for a Sh200 billion coal power project in Lamu County, though a huge setback for the company involved, Amu Power Company, is a big vote of confidence in adherence to the law. This verdict should serve as a warning that stipulated procedures must always be strictly followed to ensure safety, law and order.

The decision by the National Environment Tribunal is also an indictment of the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), whose mandate it is to protect the environment. Nema, the tribunal found, did not follow the law in issuing the environmental impact assessment clearance to the firm.

For a sensitive project like generating electricity from coal, absolutely nothing should be left to chance. Therefore, it is quite damning that the initiators omitted engineering plans and key information about the project from public participation.

At a time when there is growing anxiety about the adverse effects of climate change, the plan to set up a coal plant ignored an issue of global concern. The project failed to take account of the Climate Change Act that seeks to mitigate the adverse consequences of the rapidly changing climate. To continue with the project, the company must carry out a fresh environmental impact assessment and comply with the law.

This is, indeed, a victory for the environmental activists, who have vehemently opposed the project, citing the grave danger posed by coal mining. As the developed world shuns coal for its well-known negative effects, Kenya should not be embracing it. However, pro-coal advocates argue that there is new technology that can make it safer. But while investment is good for national economic prosperity, it must not come at a grave cost to the people.