The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Lamu Coal-Powered Plant was filed in July 2016 by Amu Power Company Limited after which members of the public were given 30 days to submit comments to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)

As of 29 August 2016, a majority of those submissions opposed the issuance of a license by NEMA due to a myriad of valid reasons, including the fact that coal is not a clean source of energy, lack of a clear compensation and resettlement plan, inadequate analysis of alternatives and mitigation measures of anticipated adverse impact on marine, wildlife and mangrove forest ecosystems.

Despite these dissenting submissions voiced by members of the public, NEMA went ahead and issued the EIA license (NEMA/EIA/PSL/3798) with terms and conditions thereof on 7 September 2016 — a mere eight days after the public submissions — raising questions about the seriousness NEMA accorded to comments from the public.

The Kenyan Constitution stresses public participation as a governance principle that must be upheld at all times. The framework law (EMCA) and EIA/EA regulations 2003 also places public participation at the core. NEMA’s decision to issue an EIA license contravenes the constitution and the framework environment law. This makes the EIA process a mere cosmetic or pseudo exercise in favor of the developer and excludes the public. The decision must not be allowed to stand as it compromises the principles of public participation, good governance, intra and inter-generational equity and sustainable development.

The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) therefore requests stakeholders in conservation to rally behind this call to make NEMA revoke the EIA license until all public comments have been taken into consideration as we, and other like-minded organizations, explore the possibility of appealing NEMA’s decision at the National Environment Tribunal (NET) as provided for under section 129 (2) of EMCA to ensure that environmental justice is granted.

The issue of coal and the huge social and environmental cost that goes with it is not limited to Lamu. It affects other areas, such as Kitui, and it is therefore a national issue that requires concerted response. This ‘brown’ economy development path negates the government’s commitment to promoting renewable and clean energy like solar, wind and geothermal as envisaged by Vision 2030, Kenya Green Economy Strategy and National Climate Change Response Strategy.

NEMA should be in the forefront and an agent for change in supporting Kenya’s transition from ‘brown’ to ‘green’ economy and not otherwise!