Global Information Network
Kenyan environmentalists are cheering a major victory against a proposed coal-fired plant near the coastal town of Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The win capped a three year fight against a well-funded effort by a Chinese-Kenyan consortium to build a 1,000 watt power plant on Kenya’s unspoiled northern coast.
Save Lamu, a local activist group, kept up the fight despite government agencies repeatedly rejecting their claims that the plant would not only pollute the air but also damage the fragile marine ecosystem and devastate the livelihoods of fishing communities.
The plant would also devastate Lamu, a historic and idyllic archipelago in the country’s northeast and the oldest and best-preserved example of a Swahili settlement in East Africa, the group maintained.
“We totally reject the Lamu coal project or the other so-called clean coal which are unrealistic and aggravate the destruction of nature. Instead, we advocate for renewable energy initiatives led and managed by local communities,” argued Wahlid Ahmed, a Mandela Washington Fellow and the founder of the Lamu Youth Alliance.
“There is no such thing as clean coal,” underscored Landry Ninterestse of 350Africa.org. “Coal is dirty energy. We strongly campaign against any plans to build a coal plant in Lamu and every else on the continent. We have seen the degree of damages induced by coal on communities and the environment in countries such as South Africa. We are convinced that we have to keep coal and all forms of fossil fuels in ground.”
The project was another example of Beijing’s efforts to develop coal-fired plants overseas, even in some countries that today burn little or no coal. Worse yet, the coal intended for use – from South Africa and Kitui in Kenya – is bituminous which burns poorly and has particularly high levels of pollutants.
Four Chinese companies were involved in the project. The United States also supported it, with U.S. energy firm GE promising to inject US$400 million for a 20 per cent stake in Amu Power, the operating company.
While the latest verdict delays the coal plant’s development, it doesn’t put an end to it. The consortium can still apply for a new license or appeal the decision within the next month. For now, though, local communities are celebrating the win.