A globally respected economist has termed a coal power project in Lamu a big mistake because of its negative effects on health and environment.
Prof Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University yesterday said of the Sh180 billion project: “Investors world over are moving away from coal because of the carbon it emits. Coal produces other pollutants as well which are harmful to human health and environment. The project is a big problem with little profits if any at all.”
In an exclusive interview, the 2001 recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences warned downside of the project, set to roll out on September 30, will outweigh its benefits. His statement comes just days after the Lamu assembly unanimously approved the project.
However, on Thursday, the MCAs gave the project a go-ahead on condition an environmental and social impact assessment report is carried out on all potential negative effects of the project.
The project by Amu Power Company is expected to produce 981.5MW of electricity, which is equivalent to about 40 per cent of Kenya’s electricity demand. The company will operate the plant for 25 years.
“I have been to Lamu Island and the government should have known better to preserve the Unesco heritage site,” Prof Stiglitz said
He spoke during the close of a scientific conference dubbed, ‘Our Common Future Under Climate Change’ at the Unesco headquarters in Paris, France.
Asked to clarify whether the debate on climate change is unfair to developing countries, Prof Stiglitz said: “All nations are responsible for global warming, regardless of their economic might. Clean energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectricity are all options viable in Kenya. Because in the next 50 years, carbon will be a very expensive commodity to emit.”
The World Bank plans to impose a tax on countries that emit carbon from their industries in a bid to reduce amount of emissions.
The plant will set up on about 870 acres of land in Kwasasi.
Meanwhile, Lamu MCAs are demanding that up to 30 per cent of profits should benefit the locals.
Witu MCA Athman Amin, Kiunga’s Omar Said Lali and nominated MCAs Husni Alawi and Muthoni Marubu warned the company against denying locals an opportunity to benefit from its proceeds.
Mr Husni said there is need for a MoU to be signed between Governor Issa Timamy, local community, the company and the county assembly on how profits will be shared out.
“Even Turkana entered an agreement with the oil company that 30 per cent of profits remain in the county, the same thing we area doing to ensure our people benefit from the project. We will not allow everything to go to the national government,” Mr Husni said. Despite Prof Stiglitz’s remarks, Mr Lali believes the project will lift the profile of Lamu. “We will be lucky to have the firm invest Sh180 billion in our county. Lamu needs that, and we encourage more investors to come,” said Mr Lali.