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Maasai protest aginst new land concessions in Kenya

Coal News - Published on Wed, 09 Jul 2014

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Geothermal energy, when compared to other sources of power generation like coal and oil, is generally considered to be environmentally friendly.

While there are some negative environmental impacts to harnessing the Earth’s natural heat sources1, perhaps this is the reason the Kenya Government has embarked on a major exploratory process in the Rift Valley to harness the potential of massive geothermal deposits.

The prospects from south to north include: Lake Magadi, Suswa, Longonot, Olkaria, Eburru, Badlands, Menengai, Arus Bogoria, Lake Baringo,Korosi, Paka, Silali, Emuruangogolak, Namarunu and Barrier2.

The geothermal potential of the Kenya Rift Valley was recognized in the mid-1950s.

In 1956, two wells were drilled at Olkaria about 10 km west of Longonot. With promising results, the UNDP and the Kenya Power and Lighting Co. carried out an extensive exploration program in the Rift Valley in 1970.

This survey identified Olkaria as the best candidate for exploratory drilling3. By 1976, six deep wells had been drilled and the first 15 MW generating unit was commissioned at Olkaria in 1981.

One of the greatest undoings of these projects is the lack of consultation with the local Pastoralist Maasai communities who live off the land where these prospects are located.

According to local elders, ever since the beginning of the exploration processes, they have been repeatedly forced to move to adjacent lands only for them to be moved again, when a new project phase is initiated. This is done without any due consideration that the Maasai depend on the land and that every move has a direct impact on their survival because it reduces grazing land for their livestock, their mainstay.

The plight of the Maasai in the region was made even worse by the annexation of lands to create the Hells Gate National Park– established in 1984 through executive orders–where an American Power Company, Orpower, was granted concessions by the government to drill wells and generate power. Many Maasai families were forced to leave the area for this project without any compensation whatsoever.

As noted by a letter of complaint from Nature Kenya, KenGen violated Clean Mechanisms principles through the clearance of vegetation, pollution and erosion which has led to loss of about 32 KM2. of wildlife habitat4.

Over the years, multinationals have continued to fund such projects despite any existing safeguards and impacts that such geothermal expansion projects have on the lives of local Maasai.

DEG (Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH) together with KfW Entwicklungsbank (KfW Development Bank), provides Orpower 4 Inc. (Orpower), the owner and operator of the Olkaria III geothermal power plant in Kenya, with a long-term loan to the amount of USD 40 million5. Recently, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US Government’s development finance institution, gave Kenya USD 310 million to increase the generating capacity of the Orpower IV geothermal plant from 48MW to 100MW.

The World Bank said that it has invested USD 409 million in geothermal development since 2007; in 2013 it announced plans to raise another USD 500 million for geothermal projects in the Rift Valley and other parts of the world. None of this budget has been allocated to fairly compensate the Maasai community, whose land has been usurped to make room for the projects; and where such compensation is offered, KenGen has resorted to using ‘gatekeepers’ who get rewards from the company such as lucrative security, transport, and other tokens.

The evictions violate international human rights law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ILO Convention 169, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In the most recent past, the Kenya Government has continued to appropriate land within the greater floor of the Rift Valley by awarding concessions to various multinational companies to further explore and extract geothermal energy.

Africa Geothermal International Limited, WalAm Geopower Inc. and local companies associated with the leading political elites Marine Power and Akira are among those that have received concessions. All the companies are now past the initial surface exploration phase of their projects. They have all now mobilized equipment and personnel to the sites.

This has not gone over well with the Maasai community who claim their indigenous right of ownership of the land, who have cases dating back to early 1913; one of many things that was prominently featured in the Truth Justice and Commission which the president apparently declined to make public and the National Land Commission which is being starved of government funding.

Furthermore, geothermal resources in Olkaria have been exploited with no regard for the health or the environment of local communities. Despite being touted as a green energy, KenGen’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment shows that geothermal power plants release certain pollutants into the environment including noise pollution, hydrogen sulphide gas, and trace metals like boron, arsenic, and mercury. Toxic waste from the power station in Naivasha have been emitted into the air and disposed in local waterways in violation of applicable international environmental standards.

Source – Intercontinental Cry

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Posted By : admin on Wed, 09 Jul 2014
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