Coast skyscraper endorsed Sh28b Palm Exotica project amid criticism
Residents of Watamu, Dabaso and Kilifi county government have unanimously endorsed the proposed Sh28 billion Palm Exotica project that will make Watamu home to Africa’s tallest building.
Hundreds of residents from Watamu, Gede, and Dabaso, who came for the public hearing said they want construction of the project to begin immediately, so as to create job opportunities and open up the area.
Interestingly, none of the speakers at the Dabaso meeting was opposed to the project, which was attended by the community, national government officials, county government, National Environment Management Authority (Nema) officials and the Palm Exotica investors. Investors seek to set up a 61-floor luxury tower with a height of 350 metres and posh residential facilities.
The project proponents, a veterinary doctor and property investor, Giuseppe Moscarinno, Career Private Fund’s manager, Oliver Nepomuceno were present during the public hearing and thanked the community and the leadership for endorsing the project.
If Nema approves the project, they plan to start construction in phases, starting December for five years.
“The project shall be constructed by Drees and Sommers, a Dutch-based international construction company with offices in 23 countries all over the world. Once it is approved, it will be managed from the company’s Dubai office,” said Moscarinno.
The company has appointed more than 50 experts who will be involved in the works. They include engineers, architects, plumbers, security, high rise building management, and subsoil specialists.
“We are happy the local people and leaders have agreed to support the project. We are now waiting for the final decision from Nema, so we can start the project,” he said.
Kilifi North member of parliament, Owen Baya together with Kilifi county secretary, Arnold Mkare who represented Governor Amason Kingi said the project was important for Watamu as it would open up development.
Baya dismissed those opposing the project as enemies of development and told Nema to take the word of the people who had given consent to the project. “There was a memo written to Nema by the department of planning in the Ministry of Lands objecting this project. They wrote a letter demanding that the project should be stopped quoting the law,” he said.
The MP said among other issues raised by the department is that the site is an agricultural zone and such a structure, if erected, will go against survey regulations.
However, Baya said the project area is over 300 metres away from the high water mark adding that those complaining have built within riparian land and nothing has been done to them. “I am asking Nema to stop double standards and allow people to build on the beach, the project is off the 60-metre high watermark,” he said.
The Ministry, he said should facilitate a project whose time has come, terming it as a giant leap for the people of Watamu and Dabaso. Besides, the skyscraper will attract tourists.
Mkare on his part said the county supports the project and asked Nema to approve it so that the governor can lay the foundation. He told investors to ensure all Memorandum of Understandings, Corporate Social Responsibilities are drafted and followed including one between Mathira Water and Sanitation Company, which he said would buy all the water from the company.
Katana Ndurya, a resident of Gede said opposers of the project were undermining development efforts by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Governor Kingi.
“We are fed up with enemies of development in this era of globalisation,’’ he said.
Ndurya said Palm Exotica tower design resembled the coconut tree and thus promotes the culture of the local community.
Other speakers criticised some foreigners who have invested in Watamu and others with property in the area of fighting the project.
Hesabu Bakari representing the youth of Dabaso asked the investor to consider locals with managerial positions once the project is complete.
Titus Simiyu, Nema regional director said they had taken note of all the views and would help the authority reach a decision. He said he would forward the same to experts and asked anyone with other views to submit to Nema within two weeks before a conclusion is made.
“No decision has been made so far. We are still collecting data after which, we will make a decision in two weeks as per the law,” he said.
A 179-page report on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment indicates the project shall be built on 2.4 acres of land Registration No. Gede/Kirepwe ‘B’/369 along Turtle Bay Road in Dabaso, Kilifi county.
Opponents of the project including Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Najib Balala and environmental organisations are questioning the effects of the high-rise tower.
A report signed by the chairman of Watamu Association, Sir Michael Norton-Griffiths, the groups say there is a danger of significant cultural, social and heritage impact.