, ,

Why Coals Poisonous Legacy is Unwelcome in Lamu Kenya

Lamu old town is a picturesque Swahili town frozen in time and embellished with antique Swahili settlement architecture, illuminated daily by glowing sunrises and sunsets. Turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean playfully lap its idyllic shores that have remained cocooned away from the dictates of ‘modern’ life. Intricate winding streets too narrow for cars are dotted with donkeys, the main mode of transport in this oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement.

Grand and elaborately engraved house doors line either side of the streets forming a delightful guard of honour as one strolls through this 700-year-old town. So unique is this hidden iconic treasure that Lamu old town is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage site List along with other quintessential cultural sites like Tahj Mahal in India, Timbuktu in Mali, Old City of Jerusalem in Israel and Giza Pyramids in Egypt. As visitors and tourists can attest, the real treasure of Lamu is its warm, kind, welcoming people who have by and large maintained their cultural way of life and preserved their pristine environment. While the rest of Kenya contends with an alarming reduction of forest cover, Lamu County has approximately 18% forest cover, is home to unique indigenous forests as well as 70% of all the mangrove forest in Kenya. Lamu old town is located on Lamu Island which forms part of the greater Lamu County which is comprised of mainland Lamu and the Lamu Archipelago.

A planned 1050MW coal-fired power plant to be located in Kenya at Kwasasi, about 21km from Lamu old town threatens to shatter not only this world heritage site but also the health, environment and livelihoods of Lamu County residents. 975 acres of farmland, mangrove forests and indigenous flora are to be cleared to set up the fossil fuel plant. Grave and legitimate concerns have been raised ranging from the economic viability of the project to detailing how the plant will irreversibly alter livelihoods, fragile ecosystems, fishing grounds and air quality of Lamu mainland and the Lamu Archipelago. The proposed 2.1 billion dollar plant is a project of Amu Power Company Ltd. The plant will unsurprisingly be largely funded by financiers from China, which is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Not to be left out, the American conglomerate General Electric (GE) in 2018 signed an agreement to design, construct, maintain the coal plant as well as a proposed share acquisition in Amu Power.

At the heart of opposition to the planned plant are the correlated environmental and health ramifications of coal power production. Ahmed Ali, founder of Lamu Youth Alliance is deeply concerned. He contends that Lamu residents may soon be breathing toxic air and eating tainted food cultivated on lands contaminated with heavy metals from acid rain, all because of an uneconomical and superfluous project. Ahmed added that the unwarranted and controversial developments like the coal plant or the massive port under construction will not only impact the cultural heritage in Lamu but may also lead to a loss of UNESCO world cultural Heritage Status.

Coal ash from the plant will be disposed in ash pits which will inevitably contaminate groundwater, ocean waters and marine ecosystem through leaching, spills or even monitored discharges. most residents in Lamu depend on wells and borehole water for domestic use and contaminated groundwater is thus a real and potent health risk. An analysis of 2018 data from 265 coal-fired power plants in the USA carried out by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice found that 91% of those plants were contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of coal ash heavy metals like arsenic.

Nitrous oxides from coal combustion cause cardiovascular and lung diseases and children are particularly susceptible to such airborne pollutants. Particulate matter from coal combustion is associated with smog, respiratory diseases, cardiac diseases, low birth weight and premature births. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides similarly contribute to the formation of nitrates and acid rain which acidifies water bodies, damages vegetation and coastal ecosystems. Whereas the above repercussions will be felt profoundly in Lamu, neighbouring counties and the country in general, the plants carbon dioxide emissions will spawn global consequences. Carbon dioxide emissions from this single plant will equal the current total emissions of Kenya’s entire energy sector thus doubling the national carbon dioxide emissions and contributing to accelerated climate change. Manda bay area where the plant is to be situated is endowed with extensive mangrove forest, seagrass beds and coral reefs. Dredging to operationalize the plant will result in permanent loss of those habitats. Warm water discharge from the plant and into the sensitive Lamu marine ecosystem will be detrimental to organisms like corals and other marine creatures but conducive for invasive species to thrive. Khadija Shekuwe, the coordinator of Save Lamu, believes that the plant is detrimental. “Communities in Lamu are marginalised and women in rural-based marginalised communities experience marginalisation quite acutely. Such a toxic project only aggravates the state of affairs.” She also stressed that Lamu residents generally struggle to meet their basic needs and will not afford healthcare for ailments caused by coal combustion. Khadija added that boreholes in Lamu which residents, especially women, depend on for water for domestic use was turning salty and contamination of groundwater will exacerbate the water stress or force residents to consume contaminated water.

There is a global coming to terms with the toxicity of coal and its longstanding hazardous effects on human health and the environment. Coal consumption for energy production in the US energy sector has been shrinking for 12 years and is projected to decline by a further 8% in 2019. Across the Atlantic, EU leaders have endorsed the objective of reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 – 95 % by 2050, as compared with their 1990 levels. The German Coal Commission has recommended coal-fired power generation be completely ended by 2038. Coal energy is peddled as being low-cost. However, when factored in, the social and environmental costs of coal-generated electricity like pollution, greenhouse gases and terminal diseases make the full price of coal-fired electricity substantially expensive. Justification for such a counterproductive development in Kenya is lacking bearing in mind that demand for electricity has not outstripped supply. Kenya’s peak energy demand currently stands at about 1,832MW against a total installed capacity of 2,351MW. Plans to increase energy generation capacity should focus on renewable energy. Kenya is endowed with a mix of renewables like geothermal, hydro, wind, solar and biomass which are all begging to be harnessed. Installed geothermal energy capacity stands at 690 MW against a potential capacity of between 7,000 MW to 10,000 MW. A host of geothermal plants are planned and the 54.6MW Garissa Solar plant commenced operations in late 2018. The Lake Turkana Wind power farm is now operational and is expected to add about 310MW when operating at maximum capacity. Renewable energy is capable of sustaining energy demands in Kenya for the foreseeable future as rapid technological advancements in the renewable sector gather pace. The injection of the above Megawatts into the national grid has made the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) change the tune. The ERC which had earlier dismissed objections raised by civil society and energy specialists about the viability of the coal plant released a statement warning that creating too much-installed capacity without proven demand to absorb the same will lead to under-utilised capacity which must be paid for by end-consumers. The regulator also recommended that projects like the planned coal and nuclear plants be delayed for some years and the capacity of the 1050MW coal plant be reduced by half. This shift of stance is profusely welcome yet worrying for it points to either poor strategic planning by authorities in the sector or mischief by politicians and ‘tenderpreneurs’ wanting to force through an unnecessary project just to make profits. The project ought not to be slowed down but entirely done away with.

The Kenyan Constitution guarantees the right to a clean and healthy environment including the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. Coal is considered the dirtiest of all fuels and is therefore at absolute odds with the right to a clean and healthy environment. Omar Elmawi of Decoalonize Africa which works to halt new coal infrastructure in Africa while encouraging clean, renewable energy questions why the government plans to utilise dirty fuel while the President continues pledging a 100% transition to green energy to help fight climate change. Mr Elmawi also expressed frustration at the impending loss of livelihood for fishermen who operate out of Manda Bay where warm water from the plant will be released into the ocean. He also faulted the transparency of the planned resettlement process for those who whose farmland are to be compulsorily acquired since there have been allegations of imposters appearing on the government compensation list for the planned compulsory acquisition while some affected landowners were allegedly allocated smaller acreage for compensation as compared to the land to be compulsorily acquired.

Coal remains the most polluting source of energy while renewable energy is a more sustainable economic development option, especially where the demand for energy is not acute. Kenyans must not be subjected to such levels of toxic pollution by an economically unfeasible project while viable opportunities of renewable sources of energy exist.

 

About the author

Leslie Olonyi is an Environment and Natural resources Lawyer. He is also a Mandela Washington Fellow under the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) and the UN Environment 2019 Kenya Bio Voice in the Africa Bio Voices Project.

Follow him on twitter @safarijunkie

 

,

Ocean plastic a ‘planetary crisis’ Citizens must change habits

Beach tourism both domestic and international has really picked especially during the festive holidays all through to the new year, there’s one major setback, The Beach Plastic Pollution Crisis. About eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean yearly, according to the UN Environment Department

The plastics endanger fish and birds and other creatures, who mistake it for food or become entangled in it, Marine pollution is increasingly becoming a problem along the Kenyan coast. Heavy metals and organochlorine pollutants have the potential to damage the delicate marine ecosystem with the result that the country’s important foreign exchange earner – tourism – could seriously be affected.

State of things in the evening at Mama ngina public beach aka Pirates

Plastic waste has also entered the human food chain with health consequences that are not yet fully understood, I have been taking evening beach walks and the state of things is disturbing, despite the ban in plastic bags, the crisis of plastic bottles needs to be looked into and drastic measures implemented.

Ban the pep bottles and plastic related packaging, collect and recycle what already everywhere in heaps and pits, and impose a rather unreasonable penalty for producing, handling or being in possession of plastic.

The coastal zone resources are however under increasing pressure due to a rapidly growing population. Population growth has resulted in increased demand for goods and services, rapid urbanization, industrialisation and associated problems of solid waste and effluent discharge in urban centres. Expansion of agricultural activities in the rural areas has continued to open-up indigenous forest cover and riparian zones of rivers such as Tana and Sabaki river basins resulting in increased soil erosion through runoff. This pressure on the resources calls for a deliberate effort to alleviate adverse impact from pollution and ensure sustainable development.

Currently, the UN Environment has partnered with Safaricom and the National Environment Management Agency to establish an end-to-end plastic waste management programme. The partnership will see the creation of a working group that brings together stakeholders, mostly manufacturers, waste collectors and plastic waste recyclers, to formulate a comprehensive solution to hard plastic waste.

Despite all these efforts, it’s up to us ordinary citizens to step up to minimize plastic pollution, littering is not done by any government body but ourselves.

Partnerships with governments, private sector companies and the general public are key to eliminate plastic pollution

The promotion of mass tourism targeting the coastal area has exerted pressure on, not only the marine resources but also utilities, with the high demand for freshwater, estimated at between 300 and 500 litres per capita-day compared to a minimum requirement of 40 litres per capita-day. While estimated pollution loads due to beach tourist establishments are relatively low, there is always the risk of localized pollution hotspots which can be hazardous to tourists and is of public health concern.

Because throw-away plastic creates environmental pollution and takes fossil fuels to produce, cutting back on its use is important to curb climate change and improve the environment.

Plastic packaging, especially the ubiquitous plastic bag is a significant source of landfill waste and is regularly eaten by numerous marine and land animals, to fatal consequences. Synthetic plastic does not biodegrade. It just sits and accumulates in landfills or pollutes the environment. Plastics have become a municipal waste nightmare, prompting local governments all over the world to implement plastic bag, and increasingly polystyrene (styrofoam), bans.

While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences. Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use. Because of this, it will be wise for Kenyans to make bold steps and consider ways on how we can make changes in everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on natural places, forests, wildlife and in our own health.

At high tide, the litter will be carried into the ocean

 

“Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, was a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. A healthy environment is essential for a prosperous and peaceful future. We all have a role to play in protecting our environment-the only home, but it can be difficult to know what to do or where to start. That is why last year’s World Environment Day had just one request: beat plastic pollution. If you cannot reuse it, refuse it. 

If you need some help with where to start, check out these easy ways you can reduce your plastic usage and keep our oceans clean and healthy.

  • Do not litter
  • Carry your own litter i.e water bottles, sweet wrappers, yoghurt tetra packs and drop at the closest allocated bin
  • Bring or reuse your own shopping bags
  • Get alternative shopping bags that are environmentally friendly
  • Pressure food suppliers to use non-plastic packaging
  • Carry water in your water bottle which you will simply be refilling
  • Refuse plastic cutlery
  • Pick up any plastic you see the next time you go for a walk on the beach and by the roadside
  • When going for a beach picnic or lunch carry your food in reusable containers
  • Say no to straws
  • Give up chewing gum while at the beach

 

, ,

Community Engagement in Environmental conservation, Lessons from Rwanda

Meet Edwin Sabuhoro PHD, a Rwandese national and an unsung wildlife warrior. He received his law degree from the National University of Rwanda and a MSc. Conservation and Tourism from University of Kent at Canterbury, UK where he specialized in ecotourism management. He worked in all Rwanda’s National Parks but mostly as a Tourism Park Warden for Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Beyond that, Edwin worked as a Senior Economic Development Advisor for SNV (a Dutch development organization), Chairman of Tour Operators and Travel Agents Association in Rwanda, President of Rwanda Chamber of Tourism, a private sector umbrella organization for Rwanda’s tourism and hospitality sector, Chief Executive Officer for Rwanda Eco-Tours and has also lectured at different Universities in Rwanda in fields of environment, ecotourism, biodiversity conservation and sustainable tourism development.

His work to develop ecotourism and to set up a community-based ecotourism project for local communities and ex-poachers at Volcanoes National Park has helped in the reduction of poaching in the park. His work was recognized through; Rwandan Prime Minister’s award of excellence in 2004, Eco-club project of the year 2007, Royal Belum inaugural award in Malaysia in 2007 and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Young Conservationist of the year 2008 Award.

He represents young conservation professionals for East, West and Central Africa at IUCN World Commission for Protected Areas. He also represented Rwanda to the President Obama Young African Leaders Forum in Washington, USA and has continued to participate and speak in different forums that highlight youth empowerment, biodiversity and environment, sustainability and community development, democracy, and leadership.

I got the privilege to hear him talk about his success story during the recent Africa Animal Welfare conference and was inspired beyond any reasonable doubt. How I wish other African countries could emulate their model globally. Environmental conservation has been a challenge due to increased pressure on natural resources brought about by an increase in the human population and uncontrolled harvesting on natural resources.

He explained clearly how the pressure for environmental resources is attributed to the inability of communities to support their household livelihoods. Secondly, in this struggle to protect and conserve these resources, conservationists and scientists alike have forgotten to involve and include local communities as a key decision maker. As a result, local communities have remained as ” the forgotten” in the environmental conservation equation. Conservation will not succeed without putting the local communities back to their central position in the conservation of their resources.

Through his work he has proved, that communitie are the custodians of these resources and they have to be engaged and involved in the planning and management of these resources. To address these challenges, local communities have to be directly engaged and involved in the business of environmental conservation. By doing so, communities would be less detrimental to these resources, find alternatives that would lead to their improved livelihoods, and contribute more to the protection and conservation of the environment.

“We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place or not to bother” Jane Goodall may we take this inspiring success story as a personal challenge, sit down with community groups and take notes from them because they have all the solutions. Let’s bring in Eco-tourism to strike a win-win balance between conservationists and local communities.

 

 

If a Gorilla safari is top on your bucket list like myself get in touch with Rwanda Eco tours for a journey that benefits the communities. http://www.rwandaecotours.com/index.php/

,

TRAVELIFE ENHANCING SUSTAINABILITY IN TOURISM AND TRAVEL

Twiga Tours Becomes the First Tour Operator in East Africa to attain Tourism Sustainability Certification Status

Nairobi, November 16, 2018. The Travelife Certified award was received today by Twiga Car Hire & Tours. The award recognizes the long-term efforts and frontrunner position of Twiga Tours regarding sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility.

 Twiga Car Hire & Tours complies with more than 200 criteria, related to an operator’s office management, product range, international business partners and customer information. The Travelife standard is covering the ISO 26000 Corporate Social Responsibility themes, including environment, biodiversity, human rights and labour relations; and is Accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council as in compliance with the GSTC criteria and certification procedures.  

 

Twiga Car Hire & Tours is the first company in Kenya to have obtained the Travelife Certified award.

 Mr Naut Kusters, manager of Travelife for tour operators, “I am delighted to see that sustainability in the tour operators sector is obtaining momentum. The award of the front-runner Twiga Car Hire & Tours will inspire other companies in Kenya to follow the same path”.

 Travelife is the leading international sustainability certification for the travel sector. More than 35 national travel associations are promoting the scheme to their members including, KATO (Kenyan Association of Tour operators), ABTA, The British Travel Association and PATA, the Pacific Asian Travel Association.

 In Kenya, Travelife works in close partnership with Ecotourism Kenya, who is managing the customized scheme. Jointly, Travelife, Ecotourism Kenya and KATO are presently implementing an EU funded initiative (Green Tour Kenya) to work towards a sustainable travel sector in Kenya.  The project aims to support more than 100 KATO members in the adaptation of common sustainability standards.

 Mr. Fred Kaigua, KATO CEO, “Twiga Car Hire & Tours is a Category “A” member of KATO and we are happy to note the effort they have made towards achieving this award.  We trust that this recognition will inspire other companies to follow suit.

Mrs. Grace Nderitu, Ecotourism Kenya CEO, “The award of sustainable tourism certification to Twiga Tours marks a major milestone for the tourism industry in Kenya.  The tour operators certification complements the eco-rating certification standard for accommodation facilities and jointly work to give an assurance that Kenya’s tourism is sustainable”.

About Travelife (www.travelife.org)

Travelife is a certification system, dedicated to achieving sustainable practices within the tourism industry.  It provides companies with realistic sustainability goals, tools, and solutions to implement positive change within their businesses and supply chains. Travelife is managed by ABTA – The Travel Association in the UK – and by ECEAT Projects – a not-for-profit organization based in The Netherlands.

Travelife for Tour operators and Travel agents:  the scheme provides online training and practical tools for sustainability management and certification. The training and online tools are suitable for tour operators and travel agencies of any size and cover all management aspects of the travel company business including office operations, the supply chain, destinations and consumers. Upon submitting a report in compliance with the Travelife standard (based on an independent onsite audit), the company can obtain the “Travelife Certified” status.

The Travelife standard for Tour operators and Travel agencies is based upon the full Corporate Social Responsibility themes, including labor conditions, human rights, environment, biodiversity and fair business practices. The management requirements are compatible with EMAS and ISO 14001. The system is supported by more than 35 national travel associations to further its implementation among members 

About Ecotourism Kenya  

Ecotourism Kenya is a business membership association directly serving more than 350 members, and reaching out to hundreds more in Kenya. Since its inception in 1996 Ecotourism Kenya has been involved in a wide range of activities to promote and broaden the industry understanding of sustainable tourism, and attract membership beyond the mainstream tourism industry. Ecotourism Kenya has had many firsts: it was the first Ecotourism Society in Africa; the first to develop a voluntary eco-certification scheme for hotels/lodges in Africa, the first to publish a Green Directory of producers of green products and services, the first to develop a customized sustainability standard for Tour Operators in E. Africa and the first to develop Green Destination Guidelines in Africa. For further read, visit our website http://ecotourismkenya.org/