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Biofuel threat to Kenyan IBA


Kenya's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has refused a licence for a 50,000 hectare biofuel plantation at the Dakatcha Woodland Important Bird Area (IBA). However, they advise the proponent to 'redesign and scale down the project to pilot level to prove sustainability before an EIA license can be issued for the entire proposed area of 50,000 hectares'.

"This appears to indicate that the full 50,000 hectare project is still under consideration for conversion to biofuel plantations", remarked Paul Matiku - Executive Director NatureKenya (BirdLife Partner).

Dakatcha Woodland IBA, which has no formal protection status, holds significant populations of Endangered Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis, and is one of only two known sites for Endangered Clarke's Weaver Ploceus golandi. It's a biodiversity hotspot and the communities around the forest depend on it for their livelihoods and cultural practices.

Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd. (owned by Nuove Iniziative Industriali of Italy) has identified 50,000 hectares for conversion to grow Jatropha - a plant used for biodiesel production which is largely untested and potentially destructive. The area identified poses a threat to Dakatcha Woodland IBA which lies within the proposed development.

Following a review of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), NEMA concluded the project posed a threat to habitat and wildlife, and: 'may not enhance sustainable development and sound environmental management'. NEMA also felt there was insufficient data on the viability of Jatropha at Dakatcha, and that the 50,000 hectare plantation: 'may not be environmentally sustainable'.However, NEMA advised Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd. to: 'redesign and scale down the project to pilot level before an EIA licence can be issued for the entire proposed area of 50,000 hectare'.

"We understand that the pilot project has already been submitted, but NEMA has not made it public", warned Paul Matiku. "Under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, a redesigned project should have a new Environmental Impact Assessment".

Pointing out that Kenya Jatropha Energy Ltd. had begun bulldozing forest at Dakatcha before the EIA was advertised for comment, Paul Matiku said: "it is evident that the project proponent does not have respect for the law."

"The BirdLife Partnership in Africa and globally has communicated to the authorities in Kenya that it is wrong to sacrifice this area of global biodiversity significance - which provides crucial ecosystem and other services important for the livelihoods of thousands of people - for the production of biofuels whose carbon savings, economic returns, and benefits to local communities and the national economy are doubtable", warned Dr Julius Arinaitwe - Director of BirdLife's Africa Secretariat. "The project should be rejected in its entirety".While there is a short reprieve for Dakatcha, BirdLife thinks this is a worrying sign of things to come. BirdLife believes that 80% of the Jatropha oil is due to go to the EU market in support of the EU biofuels target, with only 20% staying in Kenya.

"The assault on Kenya's precious environment by European companies is a disgrace, but it is also a clear warning of the global footprint of the EU's insane biofuels policy", said Ariel Brunner - Head of EU Policy at BirdLife European Secretariat. "If the EU doesn't heed the call of reason and make a U turn on its drive for biofuels, we are bound to see ever more cases like Dakatcha".

In early July, NatureKenya staff accompanying a Kenya Television News reporter who wanted to look into the situation at Dakatcha, along with rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service, were attacked by armed supporters of the Jatropha project. NatureKenya's car was damaged, but its occupants were unhurt; however, two passers-by were injured.

4th July 2014