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Sh200 billion Lamu coal plant stopped by tribunal

Environmental activists demonstrate in Nairobi
Environmental activists demonstrate in Nairobi against construction of a coal power plant in Lamu. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A tribunal has cancelled the licence for Kenya’s first coal-fired power plant following environmental concerns about the Sh200 billion project.

The National Environment Tribunal (NET) Wednesday ruled that the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) issued the environmental impact assessment (EIA) licence to Amu Power Company Ltd without following the law.

The tribunal faulted the project for omitting engineering plans and details of the plant from public participation, in addition to finding that it was not consistent with the Climate Change Act.

Construction of the 1,050 megawatt plant in the coastal town of Lamu was scheduled to begin in 2015 but has been repeatedly halted due, in part, to opposition by environmentalists.

Environmentalists say the plant will pollute the air, and destroy mangroves and breeding grounds for five endangered species of marine turtles, fish and other marine life.

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The tribunal led by Mohamed Balala said that Amu Power should carry out a fresh environmental impact assessment if it decides to proceed with the project.

Yesterday, Amu Power, a consortium, comprising Kenya’s Gulf Energy and Nairobi bourse-listed Centum Investment and a group of Chinese companies, said it had taken note of the concerns raised in the ruling and will work with all stakeholders to ensure they are addressed.

“Amu Power’s goal is to improve the lives of the communities in Lamu County through; employment creation, infrastructure development, upskilling of the youth and the provision of affordable energy generated from coal power,” Amu Power CEO Cyrus Kirima said in a statement

The plant’s backers say it would help tackle Kenya’s frequent power blackouts by increasing generation capacity by nearly a third and producing power that would cost about half what consumers currently pay.

The 1,050 MW is equivalent to 45 per cent of Kenya’s current installed power capacity of 2,333 MW.

In 2018, a court suspended the project for a second time, sending the dispute back to an environmental tribunal following a petition from Save Lamu Natural Justice.

The activists reckon that emissions from the plant would pollute Lamu’s pristine air, 21 kilometres from plant, and pose health hazards on an island that is a Unesco World Heritage site and a top tourist destination.

They also argue that the project lacks “economic viability.”

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