Gone are the days when Africans were easily taken for a ride and freely investors had their way by flashing a little cash.
The Italian investors planning to build what would be Africa’s tallest building in Watamu, a small town in Kenya, will be stunned by the reply they received.
The investors had proposed to build a 61-storey complex called ‘Palm Exotica’ in Watamu. Upon completion, it will be the tallest in Africa at 370m and take five years to build if approved.
Well, residents, environmentalists, citizens and the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) have all kicked against the project.
Watamu is a small coastal town in Kenya, north of Mombasa. It’s known for Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, which has 3 bays: Watamu, Blue Lagoon and Turtle. Sandy beaches and coral gardens its defining features.
Seabirds, as well as green and hawksbill turtles, inhabit Mida Creek with its sand flats and mangrove forests. Inland, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is home to elephants, monkeys, and rare birdlife.
The 61-storey Palm Exotica complex will include a hotel, casino, restaurants, and conference facilities on the 2.4-acre site. The Sh280 billion project is the brainchild of three Italian investors.
The National Environmental Management Authority has not yet approved, and it never should.
“Development should respect the environment. It might create jobs but no-one would support building inside Karura Forest in Nairobi. And indeed the Kenya Forest Service has just canceled a proposed 'eco-lodge' in the Ngong Forest;” Editor of The Star was quoted as saying.
Palm Exotica would radically change Watamu, a popular tourist destination with a quiet atmosphere and long white beaches. Tourism minister Najib Balala has already made it clear that he thinks it is inappropriate and that it would destroy Watamu's old-world charm.
The environmental consequences could also be disastrous. It would be an eyesore next to Watamu Marine Park. There would be potential pollution from building works and effluent discharge.
The developers say that they will only take 10 percent of their water from the Malindi water company and that the rest will come from two boreholes. But the water table is not inexhaustible. Will there be enough water for Watamu town if this project goes ahead?
Watamu does not need Africa's tallest building.
This may work elsewhere but certainly not in Watamu!
Header Image Credit: COURTESY