As turbines turn on Africa’s largest wind farm on the shores of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, Catholic leaders welcomed the project as good for the environment and important for human development. Source: NCR Online.
Bishop Peter Kihara Kariuki of Marsabit, in whose diocese the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is located, hailed the newly minted project as safe for the environment in the region, where climate change has led to dry pastures and water shortages that have ignited frequent, sometimes deadly, clashes among herder communities.
“The windmills (turbines) are not destroying the environment. They are not interfering with the climate,” Bishop Kariuki told CNS. “I have followed the project since its start and I think it’s a good one. I welcome it.”
From a remote rocky and hilly stretch of the wilderness in Loyangalani district, the ever-present winds in the region effortlessly turn the turbines, producing 310 megawatts, about 17 per cent of Kenya’s current generating capacity. It’s enough to power 1 million homes, according to projections.
In all, 356 turbines stand on 16,000 hectares on the homeland of the Turkana people and other nomadic indigenous communities that use the land for settlement, livestock grazing and access to water.
“The local people have accepted the project. They believe it will open up their areas and bring more development. If the people are happy, we (clergy) are also happy,” said Fr Martin Omondi Oluoch, a priest at Loyangalani parish.
Despite the acceptance, there is some concern among the indigenous peoples that the power has been connected to the national grid to the benefit of urban areas, especially the capital, Nairobi (550 kilometres south), without much local benefit.
Church leaders said some people consider the power a local resource that is being stolen. They suggested that funnelling some of the power to local needs would ease those concerns.
“The area needs roads, education, health services and food security, among other urgent needs. The people hope these services will follow with the wind farm,” Fr Oluoch said.