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OLONYI: Kenya could do without coal’s poisonous legacy

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Kenya could do without coal’s poisonous legacy

At the heart of opposition to the planned 1050MW coal-fired power plant at Kwasasi, about 21km from Lamu Old Town are the environmental and health ramifications of coal power production. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

At the heart of opposition to the planned 1050MW coal-fired power plant at Kwasasi, about 21km from Lamu Old Town are the 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 food cultivated on lands contaminated with heavy metals from acid rain.

Ahmed is worried that the controversial 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 its UNESCO world cultural heritage status.

Coal ash from the plant will be disposed of in ash, pits which will contaminate ground water, 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.

Contaminated ground water is thus a real health risk. Consumption of water contaminated with heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium and others elevates the risk of cancer, damage to the neurological and gastrointestinal systems, kidneys as well as the immune system.

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 per cent of those plants were contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of coal ash pollutants.

Nitrous oxides from coal combustion cause cardiovascular and lung diseases and children are particularly susceptible to such airborne pollutants.

Particulate matter from coal combustion are 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.

Nitrate pollutants cause algae blooms that kill fish and stifle marine biodiversity. Whereas the above repercussions will be felt profoundly in Lamu, neighbouring counties and the country in general, the plant’s 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. That will be contrary to both the National Climate Change Action Plan and the Paris Agreement where Kenya committed to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by the year 2030.

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Manda Bay area where the plant is to be situated is endowed with an extensive mangrove forest, seagrass beds and coral reefs. Dredging to operationalise the plant will result in permanent loss of those habitats.

The plant will draw large amounts of cold water from the ocean to supply the cooling system and discharge the waters back into the ocean after absorbing the heat.

Warm water discharge into the sensitive Lamu marine ecosystem will be detrimental to organisms like corals and other marine creatures but conducive for invasive species to thrive. Process wastewater from the coal plant like oil-contaminated wastewater and chemical contaminated wastewater are an additional source of pollution.

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 eight per cent in 2019.

Across the Atlantic, EU leaders have endorsed the objective of reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 per cent 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 promoted 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 it 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 in anticipation of economic growth are imperative and in order. However, such plans 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.

The 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.

Olonyi is an environmental lawyer



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Africa to post negative growth for first time in 25 years : The Standard

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Covid-19 is driving sub-Saharan Africa towards its first recession in 25 years. 
According to the latest Africa’s Pulse, a biannual update on the region published by the World Bank, growth is forecast to fall from 2.4 per cent last year to between negative 2.1 per cent and negative 5.1 per cent in 2020.
In its analysis, the World Bank expects Covid-19 to cost the region between $37 billion (Sh3.9 trillion) and $79 billion (Sh8.4 trillion) this year.

SEE ALSO: China virus cases spike, 17 new infections reported

The factors behind this drop in revenue include disruptions to trade, especially for countries that rely heavily on commodity exports; a drop in foreign financing as sources like remittances and tourism dry up; and the disruption to business as governments institute measures that restrict consumption.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is testing the limits of societies and economies across the world, and African countries are likely to be hit particularly hard,” said Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank’s vice president for Africa, in a statement yesterday.
“We are rallying all possible resources to help countries meet people’s immediate health and survival needs, while also safeguarding livelihoods and jobs in the longer term – including calling for a standstill on official bilateral debt service payments, which would free up funds for strengthening health systems to deal with Covid-19.”

For More of This and Other Stories, Grab Your Copy of the Standard Newspaper.  

The bank wants African government to put in place social safety nets that would boost food security, help workers who get laid off, and support small and medium businesses.
It recommends that regional policymakers institute measures that are cognisant of their economic realities, especially a reliance on the informal sector, high debt levels that limit their fiscal options, and their generally low operational capacity to respond to the health crisis.

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SEE ALSO: China confirms virus spreading between humans


Are you suspecting that you have coronavirus? Before you rush to the hospital, do this quick easy self-assessment test. #StayHome #WashYourHands HERE.

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$35b in ticket refunds pushes airlines further to turbulence

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MICHAEL WAKABI

By MICHAEL WAKABI
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The unprecedented shut down of the aviation industry has left airlines holding a prospective bill of up to $35 billion as refunds to passengers for sold but unused tickets.

The bill triggered by the covid-19 crisis, will further put pressure on airline reserves with new analysis by the International Air Transport Association IATA, predicting that airlines could drawdown as much as $61 billion of their cash reserves during the second quarter ending 30 June, 2020. They will also post a net loss of $39 billion for the quarter.

“In addition to unavoidable costs, airlines are faced with refunding sold but unused tickets as a result of massive cancellations resulting from government-imposed restrictions on travel. The second quarter liability for these is a colossal $35 billion. Cash burn will be severe. We estimate airlines could be burning through $61 billion of their cash balances in the second quarter,” IATA says.

Brazil, Canada, Columbia and the Netherlands have tried to help their airlines by allowing them to offer passengers travel vouchers in place of cash refunds.

Kenya Airways has already appealed to the government for a cash bailout in order to stay afloat. Almost all categories of staff have taken a pay cut too.

Uganda Airlines halted plans to open new regional routes after the airspace was closed. Rwandair too has ground its fleet

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Pierce Brian, IATA’s chief economist said the impact of covid-19 on quarter one revenues would be limited because it was not until mid-February that disruptions to air travel became pronounced.

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“We started the year strongly and it is not until February that we saw revenues begin to struggle,” he said during a conference call on March 31.

IATA which has projected a 38 per cent dip in demand and full year losses of $252 billion for 2020, also says that the fall in demand will peak during the second quarter which will see a 71per cent drop year on year.

However, the continuation of cargo services will limit the fall in revenues to 68 per cent.

Variable costs are expected to fall by 70 per cent, tracking a 65 per cent reduction in the number of aircraft flying and sharp drops in the price of jet fuel. However, fuel hedging contracts that were based on pre-crisis projections will see airline fuel costs fall by just 31per cent.

Equal to roughly half of a typical airline’s cost profile, fixed and semi-fixed costs, are expected to fall by a third as carriers watch the bottom line while trying to preserve the workforce that will be required fora future recovery.

IATA’s director general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac says without immediate intervention, the industry’s cash position will be precarious.

“Airlines cannot cut costs fast enough to stay ahead of the impact of this crisis. We are looking at a devastating net loss of $39 billion in the second quarter. The impact of that on cash burn will be amplified by a $35 billion liability for potential ticket refunds,” he said.

IATA welcomed the mix of relief measures to the industry that have been announced by countries such as Colombia, the United States, Singapore, Australia, China, New Zealand and Norway.

The US announced a $2 trillion economic stimulus package more than $50 billion of which will go to airlines.

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UAP Old Mutual CEO Peter Mwangi Resigns

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The Board of Directors of UAP Holdings has announced that Peter Mwangi, the CEO of its Nairobi-publicly trading Group has resigned to pursue new interests, with effect from 14th April 2020. 

In a statement, the group’s board chairman Dr JB Wanjui noted that “Peter’s departure is a regrettable loss, but we wish him nothing but the very best as he embarks on the next phase of his career.”

Peter is credited with the integration of the UAP Old Mutual Group including Faulu Microfinance Bank Limited and the entrenchment of a strong governance culture which has translated to improved performance of the underlying subsidiary companies.

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Mwangi, who has led the East African business for five years, will be succeeded from 15 April 2020 by Arthur Oginga who currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Old Mutual Africa and over the last two years has been the Acting Chief Financial Officer for UAP Old Mutual based in Nairobi. 

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