Wind farm row on as firm seeks more time over titles

Wind turbines

Some of the wind turbines at the Lake Turkana Wind Power project in Loiyangalani, Marsabit County in June 2018.

Photo credit: File | AFP

The controversy surrounding the multibillion-shilling Lake Turkana Wind Power continues after the consortium returned to court seeking more time to regularise acquisition of 110,000 acres more to complete the project.

The company has erected 365 turbines for driving electric generators on 40,000 acres but cordoned off 150,000 acres, thereby denying residents of Laisamis access to grazing land and open space to perform communal circumcision rites.

The pastoralist community from Loiyangalani and Marsabit South in Laisamis lodged the suit in October 2013 to stop the wind power project on the grounds that a private investor irregularly acquired the 150,000 acres in Loiyangalani for the project.

Mr Mohamed Iltarakwa, Mr Konchale Jale, Mr Issa Gambare, Mr David Arakhole and Mr William Lengoyiap, the plaintiffs representing residents of Laisamis constituency and Karare ward of Marsabit County, said the community was not involved in the allocation of the land.

Court documents lodged by the residents indicate that the wind power project only requires 40,000 acres. The locals wonder how the now defunct Marsabit County Council allocated the project an extra 110,000 acres from the trust land.

Three-judge bench

Some five months ago, a three-judge bench in Meru nullified the title deeds to the land on which the Sh70 billion power development sits on the grounds that it was irregularly acquired.

Consequently, the judges granted the company one year to regularise the land documents, a period that is almost elapsing.

“Since the delivery of the judgment, there has been no visible or tangible action in complying with the existing laws, thus leaving the wind power firm in real threat that the titles will be cancelled and the land reverted to the community,” the consortium argued.

Titles cancellation

The judges had ruled that if the process was not completed in one year, the title deeds for the 310MW power producer stood automatically cancelled and the land reverted to the community.

However, the project consortium argued that the process of converting the community land to privately owned property was complex and lengthy, as it required to be conducted within and across various communities, county and national levels of government.

Justices Peter Muchoki Njoroge, Yuvinalis Angima and Grace Kemei said the LTWP did not follow the law when it was allocated 150,000 acres of community land. They, however, gave the Marsabit County government, the Attorney-General, the Chief Land Registrar and the National Land Commission one year to regularise the process.

In a ruling delivered on Friday, Justice Njoroge directed LTWP to serve the application to all parties in the case within 14 days and set May 9 for directions on the hearing of the matter.

Mr Philippus Leferink, who describes himself as the promoter of the wind power project, said the project stood to suffer immense loss and damage unless the court grants more time to fast-track the process of regulasing the land documents.

Mr Leferink said the consortium had already developed, financed, built and is currently operating a 310 MW wind farm at a cost of Sh80.99 billion.

Energy needs

He further argued that the wind farm was a government of Kenya Vision 2030 project generating and selling clean, renewable wind energy and contributing about 17 per cent of Kenya’s energy needs.

“The country stands to suffer the loss and waste of invaluable investment as Lake Turkana Wind Power Project remains a critical source of Kenya’ low-cost renewable energy,” Mr Leferink said in a sworn affidavit.

The consortium stated that the cancellation of the titles would cause enormous and irreparable losses in that the power project remained a critical source of Kenya’s low-cost renewable energy.

 Upon completion, the government will generate an additional 300 megawatts of cheap wind power to the national grid and reduce the cost of electricity.

The mega project, Africa’s largest wind farm and single biggest investment by a private investor, is financed by the African Development Bank, Standard Bank of South Africa and Nedbank Capital of South Africa.

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