Kenyan judges revoked the environmental licence for the construction of the country’s first ever coal-powered plant estimated at $2Billion near the coastal town of Lamu after authorities failed to carry out a rigorous environmental assessment and cultural impact to the locals.
Environmental campaigners argued in court that the adverse effect the plant would have on local fishermen and farmland had not been considered by Amu Power and the Kenyan National Environment Management Authority. That the plant could trigger breathing problems for locals and acid rain as well as increase Kenya’s total greenhouse gas emissions way too much.
Construction on the 981MW station, backed by a Chinese-led consortium was due to begin in 2015 but has been subject to many delays, partly due to opposition from environmentalists.
Unesco’s World Heritage Committee has called on Kenya to revise the environmental assessments of the coal plant and to consider the potential impact of pollution. Failure to submit a new environmental impact statement by February 2020, could see Lamu added to its list of world heritage sites in danger.
This fossil fuel plant limbo was termed as an instance of unplanned urbanization which could destroy rich environmental and cultural resources, by one of the activists.
“One of the challenges Africa faces is the pursuit to modernise with large development projects as well as rapid and unplanned urbanisation that destroys rich cultural resources. Lamu is a key example of this,” said Mohammed Athman, a board member of Kenyan environmental organisation Save Lamu.
Kyle McCarter US Ambassador to Kenya has been criticised for arguing that coal project is environmentally sound and the plant would boost the country’s economy, despite the environmental risks it poses to the locals.
“How will the economy grow if the Kenyan taxpayer is going to be subjected to hugely unsustainable debts, even before we can start producing power? What interest does the US have in the coal-fired project?” Mithika Mwenda, the executive director of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance raised concerns.
Chinese ambassador to Kenya told opponents of the plant that he supported the will of the Kenyan people on whether or not they want a coal-fired station.