There was celebration at the Supreme Court in Nairobi when a National Land Tribunal cancelled a firm’s licence and ordered a new Environment Impact Assessment before a coal-fired power project could be considered.
Like most coal power plants, the Lamu coal-fired power project, if let to continue, would have generated Green House gases beyond what is comfortable for humans and the rest of the biodiversity around the plant, according to experts.
The Kenyan court ruling that saw the cancelling of a licence belonging to AMU Power, a consortium that won the tender to put up the plant, gave a reprieve to many. At the same time, the court asked the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to do adequate community engagement, as what was done did not fit the magnitude of the project envisioned.
The Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) has been pushing for the climate justice, and seeing such a move taken by the courts over what has displayed vested interests than genuine need to provide power for Kenyans, was something worth commending the Judiciary for, according to Mithika Mwenda, a climate justice champion.
Mithika, the PACJA Executive Director, gave a speech on the ruling. “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,” Mithika said in a statement read on his behalf outside the court soon after the ruling.
“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,” he posed.
Other people shared Mithika’s sentiments. “This was a great victory in so many levels, in terms of upholding certain values of sustainable development under the Constitution, amplifying and recognising the voices and concerns of people of Lamu, so that this is no longer just seen as a crusade against development, but need to open a public debate about weighing the costs and benefits of development projects and making sure that where there are concerns sufficient protections are put in place so that development is inclusive,” said Mark Odanga, a lawyer from a non-governmental organisation present at the court.
The five-judge bench faulted the AMU Power and NEMA for failing to conduct a proper people participation exercise and ordered a repeat of the same.
“The second respondent (AMU power) is hereby ordered to cease the construction of the coal plant in Lamu until a fresh Environment Assessment Impact and public participation is undertaken, and the outcome of the report be published publicly,” read the ruling presented by Justice Mohammed Balala on behalf of the rest of the bench.
“The second respondent (NEMA) acted in violation in issuing the first respondent (AMU power) with an operating license without having adequately involved Lamu residents in public participation as required by the law,” Balala added.
A lot of nations are moving towards green air. The Green House Gas emission is not welcome in a country that is a signatory to the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to the Civil Society Organisations that have been opposed to the Lamu power project.
“These are forces that want the poor fisher-folk to go without food; forces that care less about Lamu’s 700 year history and the fact that this is a UNESCO site...” PACJA’s Mithika has said of the firms involved in the intended construction of the plant.
In an earlier statement, he wondered why China was getting involved in the Lamu coal project. “Why is China funding this and other coal-powered projects around the world when, as a nation, it is shifting towards clean and renewable energy back home? We all know that this is because the Chinese want market for their coal. The Chines are therefore not funding us; we are being robbed in broad daylight.”
Mithika also had a word for NEMA: “The National Environmental Management Authority disappointed many. You (NEMA) could have done better than this as expected champions of safe environment. How could you have failed to notice the air quality impacts of the construction and operation of the proposed coal power plant locally?”
Besides the aforementioned, PACJA has been opposed to the project because of the noise during the operation phase, especially for the permanent workers who would live in a camp on or near the site.
Others are the terrestrial and marine ecological impact that is likely to be insurmountable at this shoreline.
“And it is not lost on us that the project will discharge heated waste water or effluent into the sea, which could potentially affect the Manda Bay’s marine biodiversity, including mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds,” Mithika said in his statement.
Others are the elevated temperature at the discharge outlet that could affect the marine ecology in the vicinity of the discharge outlet, as international best practice and national legislation allow a maximum variation of 3°C.