KENYA – An Indian multinational’s plan to construct a Sh3.3 billion factory in Busia has stalled after an activist filed a petition against the facility before the National Environmental Management Authority’s (Nema) appeals board.

Sugar N Power (SNP), formerly known as Africa Polysack, wants the Nema Tribunal to allow it to continue with construction of the facility intended to process 900,000 tonnes of sugarcane per year.

The firm has been unable to continue with construction of Busia Industries Factory since June when activist Kenneth Olulu objected to the project at the Nema Tribunal.

Mr Olulu claims the factory will interfere with the natural state of River Sio from which SNP intends to obtain water for its factory.

SNP holds that it has already imported machinery for the factory at over Sh2 billion.

 “SNP has goods and equipment worth over Sh2 billion, some on the high seas while the bulk of it is sitting idle at the company site. The continued operation of the stay order has the potential risk of ruining SNP’s construction of the sugar factory,” says the firm in its submissions.

The law requires that construction must stop if anyone files a suit challenging a project before the Nema Tribunal.

Mr Olulu opposed the project on grounds that SNP had failed to furnish residents with an effluent discharge plan. He further alleges that SNP has no intention of cleaning up the river.

But SNP argues that Mr Olulu has not provided any evidence in the suit to back his claims that the factory has no waste treatment facility. The firm says it is also constructing a water treatment plant in the area which will clean water flowing into River Sio.

 “The Busia factory is some 900 metres away from the bed of River Sio. It is impossible for any infiltration to reach the river. The water treatment plant is nine kilometres from the proposed factory.

The plant will be set up by the factory which will improve the quality of water returned to the river,” the firm holds.

“The factory, once completed, will offer direct employment to over 700 people from Ebusiwabo, Busia, and will indirectly employ over 2,000 residents of the county.’’

The firm has attached a parliamentary report to its submissions which states that farmers have been visiting governor Sospeter Ojaamong’s office seeking to know when construction will be completed as they have already planted sugarcane to feed the factory.

Mr Olulu wants SNP compelled to pay for any damages already caused by the ongoing construction.

SNP however argues that nobody objected to the project within the 60-day period allowed for appeals when it applied for Nema licences in 2013.

Ali Ahmed Taib, one of the firm’s directors, says that River Nzoia — which is longer than River Sio — serves more factories yet no harm has been visited on communities living on its banks.

January 4, 2016;