Today’s European Development Days forum in Brussels with its aspirational motto ‘building a world which leaves no one behind’ is an ironic backdrop to what is happening in the remote parts of Kenya, where a whole community is facing a threat of forced eviction by a project under appraisal of the EU’s own house bank. About a hundred people were demanded to abandon their homes by today – 20 June.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has a long history of financing geothermal power plants in Kenya. The last in line awaiting approval is Akiira 1 geothermal plant, set to occupy the homeland of the Lorropil community (also known to locals as Kambi Turkana).
The project is currently under the EIB’s appraisal, awaiting a EUR 155 mln loan that would constitute a good half of the project cost. According to the EIB website, a complementary ESIA for the steam-field, power plant and transmission line is underway. The money comes with conditions – the bank’s Stakeholders Engagement Standard requires open, transparent and accountable dialogue of the project promoter with all relevant stakeholders at the local level – but in practice this seems to be hardly respected. The exploratory works started back in 2012 without any proper consultation with the community.
The Lorropil village is home to 47 families – one of the most vulnerable groups in the area. The villagers are not formally recognised by the state despite residing there for decades. The living conditions are extreme: there is no longer free access to water, and their makeshift homes offer minimal protection and comfort. But these are their only homes and they have nowhere else to go.
Daniel Lepariyo, the chief of the Lorropil village, explained that the village was constructed in 2004. According to him, the village was displaced without any compensation to make space for the construction of a new village for people resettled due to geothermal projects financed by the EIB and the World Bank . Now, the same people are to be impacted again by a new geothermal plant – Akiira 1.
Before it is too late, the EIB must establish whether its potential client is involved in these threats and condemn any discovered wrongdoing.
If the Lorropil community is forced to leave the area before the environmental and social assessment is finalised, they might lose their status of project affected persons and their associated privileges – playing right into the hands of the company that in this case, technically, would not be burdened with proper resettlement costs.
The Lorropil community should be identified as Akiira 1 Geothermal Power Plant project stakeholders, effectively and meaningfully engaged in the project decision-making, given equal opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns, and have those considered. If any resettlement scheme is needed, it should be developed in line with the bank’s standards.