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Economy

Activists say agencies forcing coal plant on Lamu people

Members of Save Lamu Organisation during demonstrations against the proposed coal power plant on December 6, 2016.  PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NMG
Members of Save Lamu Organisation during demonstrations against the proposed coal power plant on December 6, 2016. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NMG 

Rights groups based in Lamu have opposed the move by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to approve the Sh200 billion coal-fired power plant set to be established at Kwasasi in Hindi Division, Lamu West.

In February 2017, ERC approved the construction of the plant in Lamu after rejecting objections to the project by the Save Lamu Organisation.

This means Amu Power Company Limited, a consortium of Gulf Energy and Centum Investments, is cleared to get a power generation license that has been withheld since 2016 after the objections by Save Lamu were reviewed.

ERC approved the project arguing that all the environmental, technical and economic issues raised by Save Lamu had been addressed.

But speaking to journalist in Lamu on Friday, Save Lamu Organisation chairman, Mr Mohamed Abubakar, insisted that his group had not been engaged in any way despite the fact that ERC went ahead and approved the project.

He said no single complaint from Save Lamu and other bodies opposing the project was considered.

Hazardous

The project, he said, is hazardous and questioned why the government is forcing it on residents.

He added that countries like China, Australia and even the US had already tasted the bad impact of coal plants.

He said the coal power plant is not a sustainable development since it has raised a lot of environmental concerns and that it is destructive to the highly dependable natural resources within the Lamu archipelago.

“I blame ERC and Nema for approving such a harmful project to both human health and our environment. We submitted our objections and they promised to engage us in talks to see whether an alternative and environmental friendly energy-generating plant can be established in Lamu. We are shocked that our objections were trashed and they went ahead to approve the project. We will head to court and fight until justice prevails,” said Mr Abubakar.

Save Lamu Secretary-General Walid Ahmed said for several occasions, ERC had tried to lock out Lamu residents and activists from attending their meetings and airing their views concerning the coal plant project.

Social impact

Mr Walid also said residents have not been provided with enough time to go through the environmental and social impact assessment report that was released by Amu Power Company in order for them to give their opinion.

“Even before they approved the project, they had already shown signs of locking us out including changing planned venues for public hearing on the coal project.

“We will not relent. We will fight till the end. Our fishermen, mangrove harvesters and the population at large have a stake in sustainable environment that is free from pollution.

“The coal plant is harmful and is likely to affect the marine ecosystem and the livelihoods of our people. We won’t accept it,” said Mr Walid.

Save Lamu Coordinator Khadija Shekue Famau said despite the concerns raised, there are no proper mitigation measures that the investor has put in place or even explained to the communities and stakeholders how emissions from the plant will be handled.

The project is expected to generate at least 1,050 megawatts of power once completed.

But environmentalists say the country has more energy than is needed and additional power through the coal power plant will lead to idle capacity which will be a waste of resources.

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