Nairobi, June 27 – A Kenyan court has ordered the cancellation of a licence issued to a company to build a coal-fired electricity production plant in the historic Indian Ocean coastal town of Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The National Environment Tribunal ruled that the licence granted to Amu Power Company by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) was issued without due regard to all provisions of the laws governing the implementation of such projects.

“There was a casual approach by NEMA in such a serious project,” presiding judge, Mohammed Balala, was quoted as saying. NEMA failed to carry out its mandate as required by the law, he added.

The judges were critical of the way the mandatory public participation process designed to garner the views and concerns of the affected community was carried out noting that it appears to have been rushed to deny people an opportunity to obtain information on how the coal-fired power generation project would affect them and the environment.

“Would members (of the community) have supported the project if they knew about effects on human health, damage to the flora and fauna, premature deaths and adverse effects on forests,” the judges said in their ruling on the case filed on behalf of Save Lamu, a coalition of community groups and representatives of civil society.

A critical review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study for the coal plant revealed major inadequacies that range from inaccurate definition of the project scope, inadequate analysis of environmental impacts, insufficient technological options analysis as well as inadequate mitigation measures.

The judges added that in the event that Amu Power Company still intended to build the power plant it would have to carry out a fresh environmental impact assessment in accordance with law.

The proposed coal-fired power plant is expected to cost $2 billion in Kwasasi, an area that the proponents consider ‘remote’. It is intended to produce 1,050 Megawatt of coal-fired thermal electricity to contribute towards the government’s blueprint for 5,000MW of affordable and reliable power on the national grid.

Environment protection groups, however, have noted that Kwasasi is home to indigenous people, a fragile ecosystem for mangroves, fish, coral and other marine life. The coal plant has the potential to destroy more than just the aquatic life. It could also harm people’s health by contaminating both the air and water.

It will also destroy what Lamu is famous for as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the limestone and coral centuries-old architecture of the oldest settlement on the East African coast that has been continuously inhabited since the 13th century, the Lamu Stone Town. The acid air will erode the coral and limestone architecture.