Row over Chinese coal plant near Kenya World Heritage site

Monday June 10 2019


Protesters in Nairobi demonstrate against the construction of a coal plant in Lamu. PHOTO | FILE 

More by this Author

Campaigners in Kenya who fear their country is turning its back on its green goals are hoping to stop construction of a coal plant that would increase greenhouse gas emissions by 700 per cent.

Activists in Kenya are marking World Environment Day with a protest against plans to build the country’s first coal-fired power station.

At least two-thirds of Kenya’s electricity is currently generated by renewable resources and it has pledged to reduce its small carbon footprint by nearly a third over the next decade.

But the planned power station to be built by Chinese contractors with borrowed money would increase emissions by a factor of seven and Kenya would have to import the coal.

China has made a commitment to reduce its reliance on coal, but at least a quarter of the hundreds of coal fired power stations being built or planned to be built around the world are being financed by China.

Critics say that by building these plants China is outsourcing its fossil fuel use by providing a market for its coal and encouraging it use in other countries.


The new plant will sit alongside an ambitious new $25.5 billion development on the Kenyan coast at Lamu a historic 700-year-old fishing and trading town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor project includes a vast 32-berth container port, an oil terminal, road and railway links, and a “resort city.” The first phase of the port building project is almost complete.

Chinese dredging vessels are cutting a deep channel in the bay and are using the sand and rocks to reclaim land and build the first three container ship berths, which stretch for 1.6km.

Fishermen in Lamu say the construction has already had an impact on their livelihoods.

“Before we would put out one net and catch maybe 500kg of fish, but now we can put 10 nets and get only 50kg so we’ve lost a lot,” said Somo Somo, a fisherman, adding, “The construction makes a lot of noise, they cut the mangroves the fish breeding area and destroy the coral reef where the fish go to put their eggs, so the fish have gone to another place.”