Geothermal Energy, Flower Plants, Wildlife & Disney in Naivasha

The Naivasha lake in Kenya was a kind of paradise for birds, fish, hippos, the cows of the Maasai people. The lake has an area of 15,600 ha at an altitude of 1884m asl. It is a fresh water lake with a catchment of 2,378 km2. The lake is on a tentative list for becoming UNESCO heritage since 1999. A Tentative List is an inventory of those properties which each State Party intends to consider for nomination. The quote is from the actual description of the UNESCO website.

The lake environment is fragile but dynamic and supports tourism and geothermal power generation from deep-rooted stream jets among other economic activities. Lake Naivasha’s biodiversity is critically threatened by human induced factors, including: habitat destruction, pollution (from pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers), sewage effluent, livestock feeding lots, acaricide, and water abstraction. … Current research findings show that the lake cannot sustain further development activities on the scale seen over the last fifteen years. (UNESCO Lake Naivasha)

What happened?

In the late 1970s–1980s Lake Naivasha was overrun with poachers and foreign creatures introduced into the lake to provide a possibility to start a fishing industry. The migratory paths along lake Naivasha were being destroyed by the local rose industry.

Flower farm in Naivasha

Flower farm in Naivasha with shops in the foreground

Next to Naivasha is the

Hell’s Gate National Park.

There is a wide variety of wildlife in the national park … lions, leopards, and cheetahs. However, the park has historically been an important home for the rare lammergeyer vultures. There are over 103 species of birds in the park, including vultures, Verreaux’s eagles, augur buzzard, and swifts. Hyraxes, African buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, hyena, and baboons are also common. The park is also home to serval and small numbers of klipspringer antelope and Chanler’s mountain reedbuck (Wikipedia).

The team that produced the well known movie The Lion King traveled to Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya to research on the film’s setting and animals. The main setting of the film is heavily modeled after the park.

This is a poster for The Lion King. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to Walt Disney Pictures.
This is a poster for The Lion King. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to Walt Disney Pictures.

The landscape is truly impressive!

Hells Gate National Park

Inside the park are plenty of hot springs.

Geothermal Energy

The geothermal potential of the Kenya Rift Valley (which contains the Hell’s Gate Park) was recognized in the mid-1950s. In 1956, two wells were drilled at Olkaria about 10 km west of Longonot. With promising results the United Nations Development Program and the Kenya Power carried out an extensive exploration program in the Rift Valley in 1970. The Hell’s Gate National Park was established in 1984 through executive orders by annexation of land where the American Power Company Orpower was given concessions by the government to drill wells and generate power. Orpower developed the technology by building a steam pipeline from a natural well to the power station. If the well is empty the tubes stay on the ground and they connect the next well. In between the tubes with the hot steam one can see Giraffes, Zebras and Baboons (monkeys). In the center of this photo you can see a Giraffe, the tube is leaking and the steam is hot.

Find the Giraffe

An old well looks like this

Hells Gate National Park

The initial design of Olkaria I power plant and steam field had proposed a life of 25 years (Link to PDF).

The Kenyan Government describes the technology as a sustainable future and wants to develop every available place in Rift Valley (Kenya to tap into Rift Valley geothermal resources and strengthen private sector investment in renewable energy)

The Hell’s Gate Park is only 68 square kilometres, 32 of it are already used by the tubes and power plants.

Olkaria Geothermal Fields
Olkaria Geothermal Fields

DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH together with KfW Entwicklungsbank (KfW Development Bank), provides Orpower 4 Inc. (Orpower), the owner and operator of the Olkaria III geothermal power plant in Kenya, with a long-term loan to the amount of 40 million US-dollars (DEG finanziert erstes privates Erdwärme-Kraftwerk in Kenia).
In 2012: Format Technologies Signs Long-Term Debt Financing for up to $310 Million for The Olkaria III Geothermal Power Complex in Kenya.

This cheap energy is used by flower farms and the Kenyan Government provide them free water too! This a quote from the Dutch Roses Company Van den Berg.

… the increasing labour and energy costs in the Netherlands put pressure on returns, there were more opportunities in Kenya. (Van den Berg History)

Because of a crisis in 2011 the workers were paid badly or nothing: Pain, misery as Karuturi flower workers unpaid for months.

In September 2016 Karuturi ex-workers clash with police.

The Future

The population of Naivasha City ist 15,000. Different sources speak of around 50,000-80,000 workers in the flower farms, and 300,000 people living now in the area. The prospection for 2019 is 1,000,000 people. The lake is considered as dead around 2030.

My private conclusion

For me it looks like the reason for creating the Hell’s Gate National Park was to protect the concession and development of Olkaria Geothermal Power Plants. It’s easy to sell the project as green, renewable and sustainable. After the introduction of foreign creatures into the lake to create a fishing industry, the Flower farms were like the next logical step and the conditions are still perfect. Free water, cheap energy, cheap labour, and no one complains about chemicals in the lake and poor working conditions.

  • Most partners in this setting earns a lot of money,
  • It’s possible to certify the flower farms as fair trade
  • Valentine roses are getting cheaper
  • There is a big demand to invest in “sustainable energy”

… only local people, Maasai people, the hippos and the other animals will loose everything. The ecosystem of Naivasha lake will be destroyed and will never become a UNESCO habitat! 

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