Press Centre

photo credit: alert-conservation

The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) has received an alert from Serengeti Watch, one of our conservation partners in Tanzania, that authorities in Kenya have proposed the building of dams along the Mara River and its tributaries.

According to the information from the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers (ALERT), a group of highly respected academics and writers, Kenya has proposed major new dams on the Mara River or its key tributaries.

The report says that the proposed dams include; a 10-metre high Norera Dam, mainly for irrigation and a 65 meter-high Amala Dam, deep in the Mau Forest, mainly for hydropower. One or two dams (30 to 70 meters high each) on the Nyangores River, a key Mara tributary, mainly for irrigation. Tanzania has also proposed the Borenga Dam, though it would occur further downstream on the Mara, past the Serengeti.

The Serengeti ecosystem -- made up of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, and the adjoining game-controlled areas -- has only one year-round river, the Mara. During the driest periods, aside from a few scattered springs, the Mara River is the only source of life-giving water for Serengeti's migrating wildlife -- the vast herds of wildebeest, other megafauna, clouds of migrating birds, and the big predators whose sheer numbers darken the African plain.

EAWLS has also learnt that, UNESCO-IHE is working together with Kenya’s Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) on the Water Allocation Plan (WAP) of the Mara basin. A detailed study of the reserve flow is also part of the WAP. The intention is to come up with a complete WAP report to help WRMA and others to evaluate the effect of any proposed dams.

“As this is a potentially important transboundary issue that could have immense negative impact on the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem, EAWLS is individually and collectively (with Serengeti Watch, KWCA and MMWCA) gathering more information to ascertain the true situation from the relevant Kenyan authorities, including WRMA and regional institutions,” said Julius Kamau, EAWLS Executive Director. “As a transboundary issue there is a high likelihood that the East African Community agreement could be invoked to ensure a joint approval/or disapproval by both the Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities.

EAWLS intends to provide updates on this issue as more information becomes available.

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!

Julius Kamau | Executive Director, East African Wild Life Society
Tel: +254 203874145/ 203871437/ 203871335/ 203870837
Riara Road, Off Ngong Road, Kilimani. P.O. Box 20110 - 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
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