The consortium of investors awarded the tender to construct a Sh174 billion coal-fired power plant in Lamu has promised to create at least 1,000 jobs in a charm offensive aimed at winning over the restive community.
Amu Power Company, a consortium that brings together Gulf Energy and Centum Investment among others, said locals would be given priority, even though the jobs will be filled on merit.
The consortium is seeking to win over Lamu leadership, amid claims by civil society activists that the coal project would damage the fragile ecosystem of the region.
“These are quality jobs we are talking about,” said Centum director Chris Kirubi on Tuesday at a media briefing in Nairobi after meeting Lamu leaders including governor Issa Timammy.
The coal power plant will utilise ocean water, which will be purified and supplied to the locals. “The desalination project is part of our corporate social responsibility in the area,” added Mr Kirubi.
The coal power plant, to be located at Kwasafi in Hindi Bay of Lamu, is expected to contribute 960 megawatts to the national grid.
In a separate meeting in Lamu, 32 civil society activists calling themselves the Save Lamu Group described the meeting as “fishy,” warning that the project could not be imposed on the residents.
“We believe the Nairobi meeting was not convened in good faith,” said Mr Khalid Ahmed of Lamu Youth Alliance.
“If indeed Amu Power is sincere why has it opted to conduct the forum in Nairobi when the project area is Lamu?
“This (coal) project has never brought value anywhere in the world and if valuable it would have been embraced by developed countries. If the government is serious on sourcing renewable energy, then let it invest in wind energy which can be easily sourced from open sea in Lamu.”
The coal plant is part of the Lamu Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor project and is set to light up Lamu town. About 70 per cent of households in the town lack electricity.
The expected jobs spin-offs could offer huge relief to households who have borne the brunt of battered tourism — the economic mainstay at the Coast —due to terror attacks last year.
In the recent past, Kenyans have raised concern over the award of plum positions to foreigners in mega projects while sidelining locals.
Officials from the consortium sought to assure residents of their safety once the coal plant is operational amid concerns of attendant hazards such as respiratory diseases and water pollution.
They met Lamu County leaders in Nairobi for a two-day discussion on the project’s impact in the area.