Lamu County clashes with lands agency on Sh21b wind power project

National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri (left) speaks with Lamu residents at a public baraza on the Sh21 billion wind power project planned for the area. [Photo: Kelvin Karani/Standard]

The Lamu County government and the National Land Commission (NLC) have clashed over a Sh21 billion wind power project planned for the area.

While the county has given an American company the go-ahead on the project, NLC is said to be backing a Belgium firm. Both companies want the rights to lease land for the power plant.

Governor Issa Timamy has further faulted NLC Chairman Muhammad Swazuri for allegedly engaging in land compensation issues without consulting his administration. NLC dismissed these claims yesterday.

Compensating residents

Mr Timamy said on Wednesday that the county government would not allow NLC to allocate Kenwind 11,000 acres as the county administration had not approved of this.

“The NLC cannot talk of compensating residents of Baharini ward to pave way for the power plant without first consulting the county government. NLC must follow the law to avoid disputes with the county government,” Timamy said.

Contacted yesterday, Prof Swazuri maintained he had fully consulted with the county government on the controversial wind power project and held meetings with its officials.

The chairman explained the commission endorsed Belgium renewable energy giant, Electrowind, and its local subsidiary, Kenwind, to put up the Sh21 billion project because it met the requirements of the Ministry of Energy.

Swazuri also denied reports that the 11,000 acres Kenwind was eyeing had already been earmarked for a US company, Cordisons International Ltd, which arrived in Lamu back in 2008 and intends to invest Sh23 billion in wind power.

The county government, however, maintains that the project approved by NLC overlaps land designated for Cordisons International (K) Ltd.

“Although Cordisons came earlier in 2008, it has not received the authority to invest in wind power from the Ministry of Energy, while the other company has fully complied,” Swazuri said, denying favouring either investor.

“It is not true that the approval of Kenwind was overlapping another project, since the land is not the same as that which Cordisons seeks to put up its project.”

Taking sides

Kenwind plans to generate 90 megawatts in wind power in Kiongwe, Mpeketoni sub-county, while Cordisons has been seeking to implement a similar project to generate 100 megawatts in its first phase in the same area.

Cordisons has since accused Swazuri of taking sides in an investment dispute between two parties, saying the county government had the final say on land matters within the devolved structure.

Documents seen by The Standard indicate that the US-funded Cordisons International (K) was approved by the Ministry of Energy in November 2009 and started its feasibility study, obtaining Lamu approvals in October 2010 and clearance from the Ministry of Lands in January 2013 for final land rights from NLC.

Swazuri, however, confirmed yesterday that he had authorised the director of physical planning, Augustine Masinde, to prepare a part development plan (PDP) for the controversial land via a letter dated July 19.

This has been contested by the county government, which said the physical planning function has been devolved.