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Kenya court stops building of coal plant in heritage site

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Environmental activists celebrate their victory outside the supreme court building after a tribunal ruling on the construction of a coal-fired power plant, in Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, June 26, 2019. The Kenyan tribunal blocked the construction of the government-backed plant in Lamu County, which hosts a UNESCO world heritage site and which activists said would cause environmental damage. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Kenyan environmental tribunal Wednesday blocked the construction of a government-backed coal power plant in Lamu County, which hosts a UNESCO world heritage site.

Environmental rights activists celebrated the decision inside and outside the court. Environmental groups had challenged the government’s issuing of licenses for the construction of the coal-fired plant, designed to produce 1050 megawatts of power, saying the plant would cause environmental damage.

The tribunal said the National Environment Management Authority and the AMU Power Company had allowed public to give their views on the project before an environmental impact assessment was done. The public supported the project without the knowledge of a detrimental environmental impact assessment. The tribunal questioned whether the public would have supported the project had they known of its adverse effects.

Public participation must be a meaningful engagement, the tribunal said.

“We find that NEMA acted in violation in issuing the first respondent (AMU Power) with an operating license without having adequately involved Lamu residents in public participation as required by the law,” ruled Mohammed Balala, a judge of the Environment Tribunal.

American Ambassador Kyle McCarter publicly supported the plant in a series of tweets Tuesday night. He said that the U.S. state of Illinois, where he was a state senator, generates clean and cheap energy using coal. Some Kenyans disagreed with him arguing that corrupt Kenyan authorities cannot be trusted with environmental safety.

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