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Kenyan tribunal cancels license of Chinese-backed power plant on environmental grounds

Author: Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz (US, UK), Published on: 2 July 2019

“China’s plan to help build Kenya’s first coal plant has been stopped—for now”, 27 June 2019

Kenyan judges at the National Environmental Tribunal… said officials had failed to conduct a thorough assessment of the plant’s impact on Lamu, a historic and idyllic archipelago in the country’s northeast. The tribunal canceled the license issued by the National Environmental Management Authority and ordered developer Amu Power undertake a new evaluation. The environmental court also faulted the Chinese-backed power plant for failing to adequately consult the public about the initiative, and cited insufficient and unclear plans for handling and storing toxic coal ash…

… Even though president Uhuru Kenyatta announced plans to move the country to 100% green energy by 2020, some 975 acres of land had been set aside for the project, which was expected to generate 1,050 megawatts of power upon completion. The $2 billion plant is majority financed and built by Chinese firms alongside a Kenyan consortium. The project has drawn protests since its inception, with environmentalists saying coal has no place in a country that already develops most of its energy from hydroelectric and geothermal power. Campaigners have also argued that the plant will devastate the island of Lamu, a major tourist attraction, a UNESCO heritage site, and the oldest and best-preserved example of a Swahili settlement in East Africa.

The project was another example of Beijing’s efforts to push its companies to develop coal-fired plants overseas. Even as China’s investment in renewable energy projects at home has soared, Chinese corporations have been building hundreds of coal plants abroad, some in countries that today burn little or no coal. This push has included African countries, where the promise of subsidized development was a draw for governments to welcome Chinese investment.

While the latest verdict delays the coal plant’s development, it doesn’t put an end to it. Amu Power can still apply for a new license or appeal the decision within the next month…

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