Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority (TARDA) together with Mumias Sugar Company Ltd (MSCL) came into an agreement to undertake sugarcane growing and ethanol production in the Tana Delta on 20,000 ha of the 40,000 ha land owned by TARDA.
An EIA study was done for the project but it received major opposition from environmentalists. Nevertheless an EIA license was given in June 2008. A court case put an injunction on this project, but the case was thrown out on a technicality in June 2009.
While the court injunction was still in force, in April 2009, TARDA were given a title for 40,000 ha of land in Tana Delta, on which the authority decided to grow maize and rice because Kenya was facing a food emergency as a result of the drought. Local communities including farmers and pastoralists were evicted from the area to give way for the agricultural developments.
In August 2010, a new court case was filed by representatives of Tana Delta local communities in the Kenyan High Court. A first hearing was held though no injunction was granted due to the need for amendment and wide advertisement before the consideration of the request for such an order. The court case was widely covered in the Kenyan media and a court hearing to consider the injunction was scheduled for December 2010. The case has been postponed severally since then and is scheduled for hearing in mid September 2012. Plans are still under way to implement the sugar project by TARDA and MSCL.
The Tana River Delta is one of the most important wetlands in Africa. It supports over 350 species of birds, the core Delta area covers 130,000ha and is a rich mix of habitats supporting thousands of wetland birds as well as hippos, lions, elephants, buffaloes and numerous breeding fish and amphibians. Such agricultural developments would lead to loss of habitat for these species as well as loss of livelihoods for the local communities who depend on it for farming and pastoralism.