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This is a Win for Kenya, and Justice for the Poor Lamu People?

 

We stand here to celebrate the ruling of the National Environment Tribunal on the coal-powered project in Lamu.

This is in deed a win, though not only for the Lamu people but for the taxpayers, who were bound to lose and owe billions of shillings for a project that was only going to increase cost of power.

This country has for years fallen prey to the greedy East, which is itself moving towards cleaner and renewable energy, yet still funding a coal power project in Kenya’s Lamu, in disregard of the biodiversity around it and the fact that we will remain with a stranded asset. Why should China preach wine, and take water?

Today, as we walked to the Supreme Court for the National Environment Tribunal’s ruling on the coal-powered project in Lamu, we were hopeful that the ruling would favour the Lamu people, and Kenyans.

We thank the Tribunal for listening to the voice of reason. May the Government and investors do the same for that is the only way we shall save the ecosystem.

Funding for this project can be redirected to the unexploited solar energy, which would be safer and cheaper. What if we empowered the locals and maximised on security, agriculture and tourism at the coast? We would still have enough to export and earn foreign exchange than rely on coal powered project that would leave many displaced, sick and others dead besides having to do with a stranded asset.

The tribunal has taken the narrow path followed by a few. But it is not in vain. It is not the numbers that will save the environment and the people in Lamu, but the right decisions and actions.

We call upon our Parliament, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the private sector, the Executive and even the Judiciary, to stay on course and ensure this project does not continue. Wanjiku must live. The poor folk down at the Coast have suffered enough already. Let us help them grow the economy, rather than displace them and destroy their livelihoods.

Besides, it is not always that a country harbours assets like the Lamu’s 700-year history and the fact that this is a UNESCO site.

With this ruling, the taxpayer is on course to being saved from owing billions of shillings on a project that would have been more of a liability than asset.

It is not by accident or out of ignorance that China is funding this and other coal-powered projects around the world when, as a nation, it is shifting towards clean and renewable energy back home. The Chinese just want market for their coal and expertise. Continuing with the Lamu project would, therefore be allowing them to rob us in broad daylight.

Kenya must not turn her back on set green goals. We are a party to the Paris Agreement of 2015. We promised to sustain our renewable sources of energy and reduce our small carbon footprint by 30 per cent by 2030. Let us do the right thing.

Continuing with the construction of a coal-powered plant in Lamu would increase greenhouse gas emissions by up to 700 per cent. Why would anyone continue to support such a project, unless they are out to slowly but surely wipe out generations or gain materially?

NEMA should stay true to its mandate and prioritise biodiversity, not allowing implementation of projects that kill biodiversity for the short time they exist. Coal is not cool, and as champions of safe environment, NEMA could have done better in the environmental impact assessment of the Lamu coal powered project.

How could NEMA have failed to foresee the possible air quality impacts of the construction and operation of the proposed coal power plant locally?

What about the noise during the operation phase, especially for the permanent workers who would live in a camp on or near the site? The terrestrial and marine ecological impacts would be insurmountable at the shoreline. It is not lost on Kenyans that the project would discharge heated wastewater or effluent into the sea, potentially affecting the Manda Bay’s marine biodiversity, including mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds. The elevated temperature at the discharge outlet would obviously affect the marine ecology in the vicinity of the discharge outlet. Yet international best practice and national legislation allow a maximum variation of 3°C.

We urge President Uhuru Kenyatta to order the cancelation of this project on grounds that it is hazardous and a rip-off. May he listen to the voice of reason from genuine experts. This will contribute to his legacy. He will be remembered not only as the President who saved humanity and left this country healthy and peaceful, but also as one who saved us from opportunists out to feast on poor Kenyans, even when corruption and inflation won’t let them breath.

We appeal to the Government to focus on the unexploited solar energy, and appeal to the public to reject any future plans to implement destructive projects, all for the sake of our children and their children’s children.

As civil society, we shall continue to stand with the Lamu people and Kenyans and fight for clean and renewable energy.

The fight continues.

 

Mithika Mwenda

 

Executive Director

Pan African Climate Justice Alliance

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