Tribunal stops Lamu coal power plan

Tribunal stops Lamu coal power plan.
The National Environmental Tribunal has halted the Sh200 billion coal power plant until a fresh environmental impact assessment is conducted.

In a major blow to the Government and AMU Power Limited, which clinched the lucrative tender, the tribunal found that the environmental impact assessment for the project was done haphazardly and did not involve the public.

The Government intended to generate 1,050MW from the coal-driven plant at Kwasasi area, Hindi Division of Lamu County.

The tribunal, led by lawyer Mohammed Balala, faulted the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), for glaring blunders and casual conduct in issuing an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment license to AMU Power. “The second respondent (NEMA) issued the first respondent (AMU Power) with an operating licence without having adequately involved Lamu residents as required by the law,” the tribunal ruled.

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It emerged that AMU never submitted its architectural drawings for assessment, and did not indicate how it would ensure that there would be no harm to the environment harm.

The firm was also faulted for conducting selective public consultations, in which it declined to divulge critical details about the planned coal plant and gave differing dates for consultations.

“Would the members have supported the project if they knew about effects on their health, damage of flora and fauna, deaths and even adverse effects on forests? There might be ways to mitigate the same however, the residents ought to have been notified of these before a license was issued,” stated the tribunal. “Nema never supervised AMU to ensure that every regulation was followed. Public participation cannot be a mechanical exercise. It has to be a meaningful engagement,” the tribunal ruled.

The power plant is part of the Government’s ambitious Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) corridor.

The decision by the tribunal is a second blow to the project that has been cited for failure to consider its grave impact on the environment.

In May last year, the High Court ordered the Government to pay Sh1.7 billion to 5,000 fishermen for failing to consider the environmental harm caused by the Lapsset project.

In the verdict, the court  also ordered the Government to re-submit the project’s documents for re-evaluation by NEMA and report on the findings within a year.

High Court judges Pauline Nyamweya, Joel Ngugi, Jaden Thuranira, John Mativo and Joseph Onguto found the Government at fault for not providing evidence on how it was going to deal with disrupted sea life after the dredging of Lamu port. 

Yesterday, the tribunal observed that although the court had ordered NEMA to reconsider the project’s papers, nothing had been done.

“To date, strategic assessment study of Lamu has never been done as had been ordered by the High Court. Second respondent (AMU) did not submit the proper location details and designs of the project.

“This lack of specifics of information gave the tribunal as well as the public a hard time to determine its effects on the fragile sea shore,” the tribunal ruled.

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National Environmental TribunalSh200 billion coal power plantNational Environment Management Authority