Nema declines to approve Sh23bn Watamu hotel plan

Watamu beach in Kilifi County
Children playing at Watamu beach in Kilifi County. Environment watchdog Nema has rejected a proposal to build a Sh23 billion 61-floor luxury hotel and residential facility in Watamu. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The proposal to construct a Sh23 billion 61-floor luxury hotel and residential facility in Watamu, Kilifi County, has hit a snag after the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) declined to approve the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.

Nema acting director general Mamo Mamo said the agency was unable to issue EIA report licence for the project dubbed “Palm Exotjca” under the provision of Environmental Management and Coordination Act.

“You are advised to redesign the project to conform to existing planning framework or seek an alternative site,” states the letter dated January 30, this year addressed to Palm Exotjca Ltd.

According to the designer, the tower will have a 270-bed hotel, shopping mall and a nightclub. It will further have 180 serviced apartments, office suites, a conference centre, and restaurants.

The proposed development will consist of a 61-storey building, two five-storey buildings to serve as parking and service buildings, and the auxiliary facilities to enable the project to operate optimally.


The total construction area for the proposed project is 209,026 square metres.

However, the Nema acting director general on January 30 declined to issue EIA report licence that could have commenced the construction by stating three main reasons, saying the project is in conformity with existing planning framework. He argued that the planned development did not consider the zoning plans and physical planning laws and regulations together with laws regarding survey and coast foreshore reservations and stability.

On impact mitigation, Mr Mamo said the project would have adverse impact on outstanding universal values of Watamu as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) biosphere reserve.

The environment watchdog further said the tower, which once complete will be the continent’s tallest skyscraper, has not observed the precautionary principle that might be caused by the large scale project in relation to stability, density parameter and proximity to fragile marine environment.

Mr Mamo however reminded the Palm Exotjca project investors that they have a right to appeal against the decision at the National Environment Tribunal (NET)

The development, the brainchild of Giuseppe Moscarino, a Rome-based veterinarian and neurosurgeon, sits on 2.4 acres on Turtle Bay Road in Dabaso, Kilifi and will overlook Watamu and Malindi Marine National Park once complete.