Landing of Teams cable hit by licensing dispute

Published on 09/06/2009

By James Anyanzwa and John Njiraini

The East Africa Marine System (Teams) fibre optic cable project has been hit by a new wave of controversy, before its landing date in Mombasa.

The National Museums of Kenya wants construction work at the landing point, in the historic cultural site of Fort Jesus, halted, claiming that Teams are yet to carry out a mandatory land Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

“The study was carried out only on marine resources, but they overlooked the land which is critical because it is a historic site,” Dr Farah Idle, the Museum’s Director General, told The Standard.

A fibre optic cable being laid down as companies position themselves ahead of the undersea cable launch. The Teams project has been hit by a new wave of controversy. [PHOTO: FILE]

However, the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) said it issued the project with environmental certification to proceed with the landing at Fort Jesus.

When contacted by The Standard, Nema’s Director in Charge of Compliance and Enforcement, Malwa Langwen, said Teams carried out both Marine and Land surveys. “I can confirm that the two EIAs (land and sea) were done, and we issued a licence last year,” he said.

“That is quite in order. We issued two licences.”

single licence

The Standard is privy to the details of a single licence dated November 10, 2008 that shows Telkom Kenya carried out a study on behalf of Teams and the Eassy project, permitting the construction work of the two projects at Fort Jesus Mombasa. “The study was carried out by Telkom Kenya. Why should we do it again,” added Information and Communication Permanent Secretary, Bitange Ndemo, who has been working hard to ensure the cable lands on schedule.

But Idle insisted that regardless of the national importance of Teams, those behind it must satisfy all the environmental regulations.

“The sea bit has already been done and no one has issues with that. What was not done was overland,” he said. To complicate the matter for the Government-driven project, Idle stated the cable must be re-routed away from the site, owing to the significance of Fort Jesus to the country’s cultural heritage.

“We have to advise them on the routing. We must be able to find for them a better locality,” he said.

This could not only delay the landing of the cable but could also result in cost escalation because it is contrary to the original design.

President Kibaki is supposed to commission the Sh4.7 billion project this Friday, but now there is a real danger that he may flag off a race without the runners.

This could resurrect memories of the Kenya Pipeline Company fiasco in January this year, when President Kibaki commissioned the Sh7.8 billion Mombasa-Nairobi Pipeline Capacity Enhancement project, before it was fully completed.

Shareholding structure

The Standard has also established that the shareholding structure of Teams is set to change, after some investors allocated shares failed to meet the deadline to pay up for their stake.

The investors’ 90-day payment window expires tomorrow (June 10) and the Government has vowed to kick out those that have not paid and re-sale their shareholdings to other bidders.

“So far, some small shareholders have not paid, although the big guys have paid. They say they are still going back to consult their boards,” said Information and Communications PS Dr Bitange Ndemo.

Though he could not name the investors who are yet to pay, the companies with minority shareholding include Access Kenya, Inhand Ltd, Equip Ltd, Flashcom and Fibrenet Africa all with a 1.25 per cent stake.

In he latest controversy, the landing of the Teams cable from Fujaira in the United Arab Emirates has been temporarily halted, pending a land EIA study.

The National Museums of Kenya stopped construction works at the Fort Jesus site, after discovering the EIA study carried out by Telkom Kenya on behalf of the Government only focused on the marine resources and failed to tackle the land issues.

Already, the Museum has engaged its land archaeologists to conduct an EIA study, to determine the potential of the project’s impact on the land.

If the licence was issued irregularly, then the process could delay the cable by another month, the estimated period it would take Nema to give Teams a fresh licence.

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