The Lamu Power Plant site

Wrangles pitting the environmental activists against the government over various development projects under The Lamu Port South- Sudan, Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor Program were renewed on Monday with two different human rights lobby groups accusing security agencies of harassing them as they raise awareness over the environmental impact of the projects.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya (NCHRD-K) claimed that security agents including the police and the army are clamping down on activists in Lamu who are against the development of the proposed 1,050 megawatt coal fired power plant in Kwasasi, Lamu County, a project under the LAPSSET program.

Speaking at a Nairobi hotel on Monday, Kamau Ngugi an Executive Director at NCHRD-K tore into the government claiming that activists are unable to work because of frustration from security agents.

“President Uhuru Kenyatta, The National Governments and The County Governments should direct state officials to in line with international best practices to respect the work of activists across Kenya in general and in this case the work of environmental activists in Lamu County,” said Mr Ngugi.

HRW’s Africa researcher, Otsieno Namwaya painted a dark picture of the development project saying that the government is yet to address most of the concerns raised by activists even as it continues to brand it is a game changer for the country’s economy.

“The activists are talking about potential environmental effects like the destruction of mangrove forests, the destruction of fish breeding grounds, failure to compensate land owners affected by the different projects and the pollution that could arise with the establishment of a coal power plant,” said Mr Namwaya.

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However the government has thus far maintained that the power plant will be a huge boost for the country’s economic exploits.

The National Assembly Committee on Energy in March this year supported the establishment of the Ksh200 billion coal plant.

Speaking at Parliament buildings on March 28, committee Chairperson David Gikaria flanked by other committee members said the plant would use advanced technology which would ensure that production at the plant would be safe.

In September, the project faced another hitch after the High Court sitting in Nairobi reinstated all the stop orders regarding development of the project.

The petition was filed by Katiba Institute and Activist Okiya Omtata.

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Lamu Woman Representative Ruweida Obo while claiming that the government had not consulted local leaders also faulted the project and agreed with activists over dangers the project poses to the environment.

“The company has not sought the opinions of local leaders, and less so, of the people of Lamu and their concerns that the project might contribute to the degradation of the environment,” said Ms. Obo during a protest in August 2018.

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