Centum’s massive LPG plant to go on as court throws out case

Clubhouse at Vipingo Ridge, Kilifi.[Peter Muiruri,Standard]

The construction of the multi-billion shillings Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage terminal and dock at Vipingo area in Kilifi County will continue after the court threw out a petition against it.

In a judgement delivered by the Environment and Lands Court in Malindi, Justice James Olola said the four petitioners - Omar Salim Mwakweli, David Katana, Kibwana Mwijuma Kibwana and Mohamed Juma Mgala should have first sought redress from the National Environmental Tribunal.

The petitioners had argued that the LPG project to be developed by Vipingo Development Ltd, a subsidiary of Centum Investment, was in breach of the constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment, noting that the tribunal wasn’t placed to handle constitutional matters.

Justice Olola concurred with the preliminary objection raised by Vipingo Development that the matter be handled by the environment court.

“The mere fact of peripheral references to the Constitution does not render the dispute amenable for determination by this court where substantive legal provisions govern the matters under dispute and where the said provisions clearly provide the channel for seeking redress,” said Justice Olola in a ruling given on July 30.

This now paves the way for the construction of the LPG plant in Kilifi which had been stopped by the petition filed on October 21, 2020.

Besides praying for Vipingo to be restrained from proceeding with the LPG project, the petitioners also wanted everything erected on the 10,254 acres of land removed.

Vipingo, through its Managing Director Kenneth Gitonga, said the company had so far constructed 74 residential housing units at Awali Estate and 440 apartments dubbed 1255 Palm Ridge.

There is also a three million litres per day water desalination plant that supplies fresh water to investors on the properties as well as the neighbouring residents.

Other respondents to the petition were the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and the Kilifi County government

Nema, the petitioners argued, had failed to protect their right to a clean and healthy environment while the county government failed to discharge its role in safeguarding the environment.

The petitioners also accused Vipingo of failing to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the project and not disclosing in their master plan that the project included the construction of the 22,000 tonne LPG plant.

In an affidavit, Gitonga said the company reviewed all applicable laws in the country and filed an application before Nema for an Environmental Impact Assessment licence.

The judge noted that challenges to Environmental Impact Assessment licenses should be made to the National Environment Tribunal.

Vipingo says it got the nod from the energy regulator to put up an LPG project.

The regulator said the proposed layout plans met minimum safety distance and that there were no schools, churches or mosques within 75 metres of the proposed site.

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