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KENYA Local campaigners are determined to stop the construction of East Africa’s first coal-fired power station.

In 2013, the Amu Power consortium, led by Kenyan oil company Gulf Energy (backed by Chinese banks and state-backed firms) won a government contract to build the plant on the edge of the Indian Ocean on Kenya’s southeast coast – just 21 kilometres from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lamu Old Town.

The local community, which depends heavily on farming and fishing, sent delegations to South Africa to find out about the impacts of coal plants from people who live near them. They found the reallife stories to be very different from Amu Power’s PR promises of jobs, cheap energy and minimal pollution.

So, in 2016, Save Lamu launched a legal challenge that froze the planned 1,050-megawatt plant. They pulled together expert witnesses to challenge Amu Power’s claims about air quality, impacts on marine life and climate change, as well as its failure to consult the local community properly. ‘We believe we provided enough evidence and have a strong case,’ says Omar Elmawi from campaign partners deCOALonize.

Lamu is up against just one of 1,600 new coal plants that are planned or under construction worldwide, 700 of which are backed by Chinese institutions. The new plants would expand the world’s coal-fired power capacity by 43 per cent and put the Paris climate goals out of reach.

The Kenyan court’s verdict is expected in the next few months. Any result is likely to be appealed – further delaying construction and giving Save Lamu more time to develop their green vision for Kenya. decoalonize.org  savelamu.org

COLOMBIA Indigenous communities have teamed up with coalminers to keep at least 500 million tonnes of coal underground.

The vast Cerejón open-cast mine in La Guajira has been operating since the 1980s. Every year, it produces tens of millions of tonnes of coal – the world’s most polluting, carbon-intensive fossil fuel.

Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities have long challenged the mine, using rights they hold under the country’s constitution along with extensive evidence of damage to health, such as respiratory illnesses and cancer, and to local livelihoods of hunting, fishing and farming.

In recent years, the Wayúu people have found an important ally: Cerejón’s coalworkers. ‘When we were a new union we just focused on workers’ rights,’ Aldo Amaya, President of Sintracarbón union, told UK campaigners last year. ‘As we matured, we began to listen more to communities, to learn what was happening to them, and now we are committed to defending workers and communities.’

To date, this alliance – combined with support from NGOs and using tactics like train line blockades and mine occupations – has prevented Cerejón from diverting the Rancheria river to access an estimated 500 million tonnes of coal. The battle is not over yet. Many suspect Cerejón may be diverting key tributaries that feed the main river instead. Meanwhile coalworkers and communities are advancing visions of a transition away from mining into new and traditional livelihoods. nin.tl/LondonMiningNetwork

MAY- JUNE 2019

Climate justice

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