Environment case puts Dongo Kundu project in jeopardy

Ryoichi Horie

 Former Japan’s ambassador to Kenya Ryoichi Horie and former Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani during the exchange of notes on a number of projects including the Dongo Kundu special economic zone on September 20, 2019.  

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), three ministries and Attorney-General Justin Muturi have been given two weeks to respond to a petition seeking to prevent the government from beginning construction of the Sh39 billion Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone.

Mombasa Environment and Land Court Judge Stephen Kibunja issued the directive yesterday after the court was informed that none of the parties had filed a response. The ministries sued are Transport and Infrastructure, Environment and Forestry, and Trade, Investments and Industry.

The court also ordered the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action, which filed the case, to respond within seven days.

In the case that has been certified urgent, the lobby wants the project’s implementation to be halted due to environmental concerns. Through their lawyer Karugu Mbugua, it claims that once completed, the project will result in the production of industrial waste that is likely to be deposited into the ocean.

“The proposed project primarily involves massive dredging of the ocean’s causeway, land reclamation, which includes the destruction of natural extensive mangrove forests and other indigenous tree species, revetment of the ocean waters natural causeways, and other activities that are likely to adversely affect the environment and the ocean’s intricate biodiversity,” said James Macharia, the lobby’s director.

The group wants the court to issue an injunction preventing the government from proceeding with the project until the case is heard and determined.

The project’s tender was advertised on November 16 last year. However, Mr Macharia has complained to the court that the project’s tender was awarded in secret, as no public participation was conducted, and that indigenous communities were not involved.

“The applicant has previously sought information regarding projects being carried out by KPA in the same area, specifically a contract between it and Toyo Construction Ltd involving the construction of a container freight terminal in vain,” he said.

He also said that no environmental impact assessment report has been made available to residents, depriving them of their right to information on a project of public interest.

Some 39 beach management units representing more than 8,000 members in Kwale and Mombasa also want to be enjoined in the case as interested parties.

The National Environment and Management Authority and the Mombasa County government have been named as respondents while the Japanese International Cooperation Agency Kenya country office has been named as an interested party.

President William Ruto announced on New Year's Eve that he has moved the project’s completion date from 2028 to 2025. The filing of the case, however, is likely to derail the project.

The case will be heard on February 16.