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Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 11:31 UK

Anger at Kenya biofuel approval

Sugar cane workers
The project backers say it will provide thousands of jobs

Kenyan environmentalists have told the BBC that the government should revoke a decision to allow a controversial biofuels project to go ahead.

The project involves growing sugarcane for biofuels in coastal wetlands.

The project's backers argue the development in the Tana River Delta will produce ethanol and generate power, providing thousands of jobs.

But Nature Kenya says the project threatens the habitat of hundreds of species in the 20,000-hectare site.

"Clearly these species are going to be really negatively impacted," Sarah Munguti, the organisation's spokeswoman, told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

The area, more than 100km (62 miles) north of the port city of Mombasa, has 350 species of birds as well as lions, elephants, rare sharks and reptiles including the Tana writhing skink, according to the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Crops like sugarcane and corn are used to produce biofuel, an alternative to fossil-based fuels like petrol.

'Flawed'

The Tana Integrated Sugar Project aims to produce 23 million litres of ethanol a year.

map
They don't take into account the lost livelihood due to the project because local people will be displaced
Nature Kenya's Sarah Munguti

The $369m plant will mill 8,000 tonnes of sugar cane daily and generate 34 megawatts of electricity, as well as creating thousands of jobs, the project's developers say.

It was approved last week.

But the environmental impact report on the project was flawed and did not incorporate concerns raised by environmentalists, Ms Munguti said.

She added that the project was not economically viable because its income had been overestimated by three times, and it would not improve the lives of local residents.

"They don't take into account the lost livelihood due to the project because local people will be displaced," she said.

The production of biofuel has been blamed for rising food prices and shortages by diverting resources from the cultivation of food crops.

UK aid agency Oxfam says the push for biofuels has dragged more than 30m people worldwide into poverty.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Kenya
18 Apr 08 |  Country profiles
Kenya sugar market turns sour
02 Oct 01 |  Business

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