African countries tend to overlook the impact of coal and fossil fuels on the environment in favour of industrialisation and development.
In a hearing set for today, judges on the National Environment Tribunal (NET) made the decision to delay the judgement on the ruling on the Environment and Social Impact Assessment case (ESIA) of the Lamu Coal Plant in Lamu, Kenya. The NET said that the tribunal itself is not ready. The case has been moved to June 24.
Writer and advocate Nanjala Nyabola took to Twitter to share her frustration with the news saying, "And ... decision postponed. They've been doing this for almost three years now."
The proposed Lamu Coal Power Station is a potential 1,050 MW coal-powered thermal power station in Kenya. The plant would be developed on 865 acres of land and feature a 210-meter tall smokestack, which would become East Africa's tallest structure. The project has faced stiff opposition from environmentalists since its inception due to its carbon footprint. Furthermore, the world as a whole is moving away from coal and onto more environmentally friendly sources of power due to the impending doom that is the danger posed by climate change. Industrialisation driven by coal and fossil fuels is one of the major causes of man-made climate change.
Various reports have indicated that the Lamu plant will cause massive pollution. This pollution will not only endanger the environment, but also the health of the locals. Ernest Niemi, an economist and president of Natural Resource Economics, testified before the NET in June 2017 that Kenya will incur a massive health burden coupled with deaths with the operation of the plant. Niemi also testified that studies across the world show that the social cost of running coal-fired power plants exceeds the economic benefits.
David Ndii, a renown economist, wrote that there is no demand for the proposed 1,050 Mw of power in Kenya to date or for the foreseeable future as Kenya is presently sufficient in energy generation. Ndii added that the Turkana wind power's 310 MW was still not connected to the national grid as of June 2018, and, once connected, will supply additional power to an already over-supplied Kenya.
Additionally, local communities in Lamu are against the coal plant because the need for revenue sharing with the communities has not been addressed. The locals are unhappy as they have not yet been compensated for an earlier oil infrastructure project known as the Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET). LAPSSET's construction is not "formally stalled", but the construction of its main components is yet to begin and continues to look highly unlikely.
The Kenya National Environmental Management Authority has been accused numerous times of malpractice in approving the licence to the Lamu Plant. The Energy Regulation Commission has also been implicated. The Secretary-General of Save Lamu, Walid Ahmed, said that, on several occasions, ERC had tried to lock out Lamu residents and activists from attending their meetings and airing their views concerning the coal plant project.
Aside from Kenya; Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Senegal all have coal plants. The Standard Bank of South Africa is one of the financiers of the Lamu Coal Plant. African countries tend to overlook the impact of coal and fossil fuels on the environment in favour of industrialisation and development because they figure that it's unfair that the developed world got to advance themselves with them but now the goalposts are conveniently being shifted. It remains to be seen if the NET will honour its mandate or if it will keep delaying the ruling.
Header Image Credit: deCOALonize Movement
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