NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 26 – The controversial Lamu coal project has been stopped by the National Environment Tribunal (NET), a week after activists held protests against its construction.,
The ruling was issued Wednesday by bench of five judges of the Tribunal Court sitting in Nairobi.
Justice Mohammed Balala who read out the ruling said they had observed that environmental concerns raised by locals are valid because there was no environmental impact assessment conducted.
They also faulted the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and AMU Power for failing to conduct public participation.
“The second respondent (Amu power) is hereby ordered to cease the construction of the coal plant in Lamu until a fresh Environment Assessment Impact and public participation is undertaken, and the outcome of the report be published publicly,” ruled the tribunal.
“The second respondent (NEMA) acted in violation in issuing the first respondent (Amu power) with an operating license without having adequately involved Lamu residents in public participation as required by the law,” Balala ruled.
The tribunal also set aside the NEMA issued license.
“Conditions on license were generalized with no links to issues identified. Shows casual approach by NEMA to a serious issue,” the court found.
This ruling has come as a win not only for Lamu residents but also to activists and Environmentalists who have been opposing the construction of the coal power plant, arguing that Kenya does not need coal power plants, as it has plenty of renewable energy which is cheaper, cleaner and sustainable for future generations.
Environmentalists have cited coal as being dirty, highly polluting, contributing to climate change and an environmental hazard.
Katiba Institute also made submission before NET, highlighting five key issues which include air quality, climate change, health, public participation and the role and responsibility of NEMA.
They argued that NEMA erred in approving a project that will have a negative impact on the country’s air quality, with accompanying adverse impacts on human health and biodiversity.
They further contended that the project will additionally contribute to adverse climate change impacts and that it was inconsistent with Kenya’s low carbon development goals and commitments.
Mark Odanga, a lawyer from a non-governmental organization which has been supporting Katiba Institute in this case, said that Wednesday’s win is not just for Lamu but for Kenyans because of its environmental concerns.
Odanga said that failure to have sufficient public participation, denied Lamu residents who will be highly impacted by the coal project an opportunity to fully understand the potential impact of the project.
“This was a great victory in so many levels in terms of upholding certain values of sustainable development under the constitution, amplifying and recognizing the voices and concerns of people of Lamu, so that this is no longer just seen as a crusade against development, but need to open a public debate about weighing the costs and benefits of development projects and making sure that where there are concerns sufficient protections are put in place so that development is inclusive,” he said.
The plant has been in its planning stage for close six years and has faced opposition from activists and local communities.
The Sh200 billion project was proposed by government in 2015.