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Court Halts Lamu Coal Plant

No Thanks! Court Rules on Lamu Coal Plant

It is a big win for Kenyan Environmentalists!

Writes Ronny Onkeo, the Creative Director and Consultant at Elea Africa

On Wednesday 26th June 2019; the Kenya National Environment Tribunal (NET) the body overseeing environmental concerns in the country withdrew the licence issued to Amu Power Company Ltd-a consortium of Gulf Energy and Centum Investment- for setting up a coal plant in Lamu; Kenya; an island that is a Unesco World Heritage site and a top tourist destination.

The case was filed by Katiba Institute on behalf of the Save Lamu lobby group, Lamu Youth Alliance and Lamu Marine Forum who were against the building of the Sh200 billion coal power plant citing environmental pollution in the area.

NET held a hearing Wednesday this week  and concluded that the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) had issued Amu Power Company an Environmental impact assessment licence without following all considerations of the law of Kenya for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license issuance. In the court case, NET’s conclusion was that the proponents of the project had not undertaken public participation of the residents in the area which is a key process in the EIA licence issuance.

Further, NET claims that the proponents failed to take a consideration of the Climate change Act which touches on the importance of environmental conservation against pollution of the environment. NET pointed fingers at NEMA; the environmental body for issuing a license which appears to be generic and not specific to the project at hand.

Image result for Lamu coal case
A past protest by Lamu Residents. Photo by The Star Newspaper

The tribunal chaired by Mr. Mohamed Balala ordered Amu Power company and Nema to start a new EIA licensing process and ensure they comply with the law if they want to proceed with the project. The proponents of the project: Amu Power CEO Cyrus Kirima said that the firm had taken note of the concerns raised in the ruling and was committed to working with stakeholders to ensure that all matters are addressed.

Anti-coal activists have been pushing for the government to focus on setting up clean energy projects instead of coal to ensure sustainable development as well as championing for SDG13 that fights for Climate action to ensure a reduction in the carbon footprint of the country. Some 975 acres of land had already been set aside for the project which is expected to generate 1,050 megawatts however compromising the health of the residents.

Kenyan environmentalists have always been against the Construction of the 1,050-megawatt plant in the coastal town of Lamu since 2015, halting the project severally citing health issues from the effects of coal. The burning of coal is not environmentally friendly, it produces harmful by-products and gas emissions such as sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide that pollutes the environment including acid rain. Moreover, coal energy is a nonrenewable energy source.

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants includes sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter (PM), and heavy metals, leading to smog, acid rain, toxins in the environment, and numerous respiratory, cardiovascular, and cerebrovascular effects. The establishment of the project would also lead to the destruction of mangroves and the breeding grounds for five endangered species of marine turtles, fish and other marine life polluting Lamu’s pristine air. The effect of coal can go up to 21 kilometers from plant thus pose health hazards on an island that is a Unesco World Heritage site and a top tourist destination.


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