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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Public input thwarted third time as Lamu hearings flop

Walid Ali (C) demonstrates against the government plans to build East Africa’s first coal-fired power plant near Lamu on December 6 last year / REUTERS
Walid Ali (C) demonstrates against the government plans to build East Africa’s first coal-fired power plant near Lamu on December 6 last year / REUTERS

Foreign coal power and pollution experts have been forced to extend their stay in Nairobi after hearings on the controversial Lamu coal plant failed to take off for the third time.
Critics suggest a plan to sabotage public and expert input, which is overwhelmingly negative.
A licence has not yet been issued.
Hearings were adjourned last week, after two members of the National Environmental Management Authority tribunal failed to show up.
Yesterday, the hearing could not take off for lack of quorum after two members failed to show up. “This is really disheartening. It’s sad because our experts are coming from out of the country,” Omar Mohammed, national liaison officer for Save Lamu, said. His NGO petitioned the tribunal, urging it to oppose Nema’s issuing a license for the Sh210 billion coal-fired plant. Contracts have already be signed.
Hearings are to resume today at the College of Insurance in South C.
Experts accuse Nema of shirking its constitutional responsibility by using delaying tactics to scuttle the hearings.
Last week, hearings were quickly moved from the Supreme Court building in Nairobi to Nema offices on Mombasa Road — a less accessible locaiton.
“Nema used the same tactics in Lamu county to block public input on the plant, holding public consultation meetings at inaccessible locations,” an NGO official said.
Other organisations opposing the Lamu plant are are Unesco, Lamu Juu, the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Lamu communities.
Marine biologist David Obura said the planned Lamu coal plant would have a huge negative impact on residents, land vegetation and marine life.
“This coal plant will be Kenya’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and may be the single largest emitter of toxic substances to the environment,” he said.
The proposed Amu Power plant is the project of Centum Investments, China Huadin and China Power Global. The plant would use coal imported from South Africa.
On May 29, hearings at Nema offices could not begin because the entire panel was not present due to delayed flights.
While five witnesses were scheduled to testify on May 30 at the Supreme Court, only two — Ernie Niemi and Mark Chernaik — both from the United States, were able to testify.
Economist Ernest Niemi, president of Natural Resource Economics, who has studied coal plants worldwide for 40 years, said operating the plant will be cheap for the developers, but expensive as an energy source to consumers and detrimental to society in general.
“To the developers and from the inside, the project looks good, but it is bad for the society in terms of air and water pollution,” he said.
“The Lamu project would diminish overall human well-being by imposing on workers, families, businesses, and communities social costs exceeding the value of electricity.”

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