The campaign against a coal-fired plant in Lamu is a good example of how a small, voiceless community can be mobilised to fight powerful and influential forces intent on destroying the environment.
Under the campaign name deCOALonise, the people and organisations who campaigned against the construction of the coal-fired plant in Lamu succeed in their efforts.
In this campaign, two things stand out which other environmental campaigners might want to take note of as they provide a good case study on how to obtain environmental justice in the face of stiff opposition from government and corporate interests.
One, the campaign was fought not just by the affected communities in Lamu but by a coalition of local and foreign environmental and human rights organisations, namely, Save Lamu, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 350 Africa, Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, Sauti Ya Wanjiku, Muhuri – Muslims for Human Rights, National Resources Alliance of Kenya, American Jewish World Service and the Center for Justice Governance and Environmental Action. This coalition provided the campaign with the legal and financial resources and the moral strength and support that would not have been available if the campaign had been led only by members of the affected community in Lamu – though it is important to note that the residents of Lamu were both vocal and visible throughout the campaign.
Two, these organisations and their supporters designed a highly successful media campaign under the banner deCOALonize.org, which published regular updates online and on social media and organised street demonstrations both in Lamu and in Nairobi. By the time the case went to National Environmental Tribunal ( NET), opposition was so strong that a ruling in support of the plant in Lamu would have appeared to be totally misguided, or worse, highly compromised. Public pressure was thus key to the success of the campaign.
Despite the landmark ruling , the struggle is not yet over.
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