Machakos leather park project now runs into environmental headwinds


Industrialisation and Enterprise CS Adan Mohammed (left) inspects a leather shoe made at Kariokor market, Nairobi. The industry generates Sh10bn annually. PHOTO | FILE

The development of a 500-acre Leather Industrial Park (LIP) in Machakos has run into environmental headwinds, setting up two governmental agencies for a clash.

An assessment study submitted to the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) by Repcon Associates shows the project will have an adverse effect on Athi River water basin.

The study notes that the scale of the project being implemented by Export Promotion Zones Authority (EPZA) will add pressure to the water-stressed zone.

“The entire Athi River basin is a water stress zone where local supply is supplemented by imports from far removed places such as Kilimanjaro, Sasumua dam,” says the report.

“Imposition of additional non-planned for demand for water as anticipated from 36 new tanneries would pose huge challenges in supplies,” adds the report.

The report further states that the resultant effluent load coming out of the tanneries will cumulatively affect the River Athi whose quality is currently stressed by pollution from Nairobi, Thika, Athi River, Machakos and other towns.

The state is constructing a centralised Sh1 billion effluent plant where the waste from leather factories will be channelled to, saving investors the burden of putting up one.

An effluent plant is one of the most expensive components in establishing a leather factory and the government is using this as an incentive to attract investors at the park. A tannery requires huge amounts of water and power.

The study also shows that the implementation of the LIP is likely to trigger influx of population seeking employment and accommodation, rapidly increasing demand for services such as water and sanitation, schools, healthcare and transport.

“All of this has potential to attract non planned development including mushrooming of shanties to the detriment of the local real estate market,” it says.

As a remedy to the anticipated environmental impact, the study calls for the downsizing of the scope of the project to peg it to available raw material supply, hence no need for tanneries to relocate to Kinanie.

The study also calls for the EPZA to team up with sectorial oversight bodies to identify and develop new water sources to supply the proposed Leather City at Kinanie.

The country’s leather sector generates Sh10 billion annually and is projected to earn 10 times more by exporting more finished products.