Lamu residents get 30 days to air views on coal project

Lamu County Representative Shakila Abdalla (right), flanked by the County's Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation chair  Hindu Salim (2nd right), among others, adresses the media at the Island of Lamu in Lamu County on Sunday, 29th November, 2015  when she led locals in a demonstration protesting against Amu Power Company for the planned construction of a coal plant in the county, saying it was a health hazard to the locals. (PHOTO: MAARUFU MOHAMED/ STANDARD)

The environmental watchdog has given the public 30 days to air their views on the proposed coal power plant.

This follows the submission of an environmental impact assessment report by Amu Power Company to the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA). The firm intends to put up a 1050 megawatts coal-fired power plant at Kwawasi in Hindi-Magogoni sub-county.

In a notice, NEMA Director General Geoffrey Wahungu explained that the plant would comprise a coal-fired power station and associated buildings, structures and three high-pressure turbines.

It will also have a coal receiving system, coal stock yard, ash yard, limestone receiving system, gypsum handling system, sea water cooling system and a flue gas air quality conditioning system.

Nema said the firm would use clean coal technologies such as low nitrous oxide burners, electrostatic precipitators and wet flue gas desulfurisation systems to prevent pollution.

Air quality

"In the design phase, the height of the chimney will be set at 210m from grade level to ensure that treated priority air polluters do not cause adverse impacts on air quality. The design of the power plant shall include a continuous emissions monitoring system, which will be installed on the chimney to monitor real-time concentrations of priority air pollutants," Prof Wahungu said.

However, Lamu Woman Representative Shakilla Abdalla demanded that the plan be shelved over fears of pollution. Lamu politicians Hassan Albeity and Abdalla Fadhil have also opposed the power plant project on grounds that it will adversely affect residents' health.

But the Lamu county executive and county assembly have endorsed the project, saying it will create hundreds of jobs.

Ms Shakilla said a coal plant would significantly increase the incidence of asthma, chronic bronchitis, premature mortality, birth defects, emphysema, heart diseases and cancer.

"Let's oppose the introduction of this coal plant. Let's say no to coal. The health of the people of Lamu and the public at large must be paramount," she said, adding that a coal plant would only retard the development of Lamu County, which mostly depends on fishing and tourism.

"No matter how the propaganda is spreading to make this project successful, we would be deceiving ourselves by supporting it," said Abdalla.

She argued that the rationale that coal power was cheaper was not acceptable because it could prove a lot more dangerous to residents.

"We hear the argument about clean coal. There is no such thing as clean coal," she added.