Kilifi residents reject dynamite project

Ms Saumu Charo speaks at a public meeting in Msifuni village in Kilifi County. A plan by an investor to build a warehouse for storing dynamites in the village has run into headwinds after locals opposed it citing health hazards.

Photo credit: Maureen Ongala I Nation Media Group

A plan by an investor to build a warehouse for storing dynamites in Misifuni area, Kilifi County, has run into headwinds after locals opposed it citing health hazards.

The residents said they were not ready for the project by Nitro Chemicals Limited since there were no proper consultations.

In addition, they said that despite the company claiming to have acquired the necessary documents from government agencies, they suspect it was hoodwinking them to accept the construction of the go-down while planning to set up a different project behind their backs.

Mr David Swafi said such companies have in the past duped them and, in most cases, allowed the implementation of projects which have always turned out not to be the ones they agreed on with locals.

He spoke at a meeting attended by the public, leaders and government officials led by National Environment Management Authority

(Nema) yesterday at Misufini.
“Unfortunately, the community was in darkness about the project and was informed about it when the company was in its advanced stages. That is in contravention of the law,” he said.

He said that investors had used different terms to convince the community that their projects were environmentally and health-friendly while the effects were severe to the community.

Mr Swafi added that it was time for the residents to allow investors to implement projects that would directly benefit the locals.

“Go around Rabai sub-county and there is no company that is friendly to the locals, but all the investors have set up multi-billion investments that have severe health effects on the workers and the community,” he said.

Saumu Charo called on the government and human rights lobby groups to launch an investigation into the matter.

"Investors in Rabai have taken advantage of our vulnerability to manipulate us for their interest. They start projects that affect our environment and health, and when the community raises the alarm, they want us to move and compensate us with little money that cannot sustain families," she said.

Nema Kilifi County director George Oyoo said the investors presented the project as the construction of go-downs.

According to Mr Oyoo, a go-down is a low risk project.

“According to the regulations, the establishment of a go-down is a project that is not harmful to the community,” he said.

The director said there was a need for public participation to bring on board the larger community.

“According to me, public engagement in the project could have involved the whole community because the information I am getting is that several projects have affected the community, and because of the history, you are afraid of the consequences. However, as the one in charge of environmental issues, I will re-look at the report and issue a way forward,” he said.

Mr Oyoo said the community had a right to accept or reject a project.

“The community has a right to accept or reject a project for a clean and healthy environment,” he added.

He said Nema would act on the feedback from a planned meeting between the investor and the community.

“If you disagree, the investors will move to the tribunal, but there is no need for a case while the project will come to us. But my plea is for you to accept if it will benefit you, do not engage in politics,” he said.

Dr Oyoo said he would not assent to the  Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report if the project would affect the community.

Inspector of Explosives Emmanuel Odhiambo said four chemical companies in the country were licensed to sell dynamites. 
Nitro Chemicals Limited is one of them.

“The Kenyan law requires the dynamites to be safely stored in a go-down under tight security,” he said.

Mr Odhiambo refuted claims that the investor was planning to set up a quarry where the explosives used the dynamites.

“There is no quarry to be established here, and no dynamites would be detonated here. It will be strictly a store,” he said.

Rabai Member of Parliament Kenga Mupe faulted Nitro Chemicals Limited for violating the public participation law.

He accused investors in the region of violating human rights while colluding with the police to frustrate the community.

“We will ensure that the community is getting their rights and the investors abide by the demands of the people.

Police officers in Rabai always come here to arrest people objecting to the project, and today I am here in solidarity with my people to challenge the police to take all of us,” he said.  

According to Mr Mupe, investors have oppressed the community in Misufuni, Kokotoni and Kaliang’ombe areas for many years. 

“The law that guides the establishment of an investment in a place is clear, and the investor must have public participation.

But all the investors that exist in Rabai were approved without engaging the community. The investors had dealings with people in offices to approve their projects,” he claimed. 

Mr Mupe asked companies in the area that have conducted activities that had affected the livelihood of the residents, including quarrying that has affected their houses, to compensate them soonest.


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