'This is our home': Kenya islanders demand say in foreign-backed projects

(Reuters News, 14 Sep 2019) Lamu islanders are engaged in a legal battle to stop a foreign-backed coal power plant that they fear could harm the area's cultural and environmental heritage.

Armed with maps, activists on the tourist island of Lamu have managed to stall plans for Kenya's first coal-powered plant as local communities become more vocal about rising numbers of foreign-backed projects on their doorsteps.

Kenya's government in 2016 granted a licence to Amu Power - a consortium involving Kenya's Gulf Energy and Centum Investment , some Chinese companies as well as U.S. and Omani backers - to build the plant as demand for electricity soared.

But using smartphones and GPS trackers, activists collected information on wildlife and historical sites to highlight in court the impact the plant could have on the islanders' environment and livelihoods.

"This is our home," said Walid Ahmed, the secretary general of Save Lamu, an advocacy group which is part of the mapping campaign for the World Heritage Site's protection.

"We do want development of course, but we also want to be informed about what this development will look like," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from his Lamu office with walls covered in maps of the island.

In June a Kenyan environmental tribunal delayed the licence for the planned power plant, saying Kenya's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) had granted the licence without a proper environmental study that consulted residents.

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Reuters News, 14 Sep 2019: 'This is our home': Kenya islanders demand say in foreign-backed projects