Since 2009, the Government of Kenya (GOK) has expressed plans to undertake a multipurpose transport and communication corridor known as the ‘Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia (LAPSSET) Transport Corridor. LAPSSET will consist of a standard gauge railway line, a port, a super highway, a regional international airport, an ultra-modern tourist resort, an oil pipeline, and a fibre-optic cable be constructed to link Lamu to Juba and Addis Ababa. Through the media, we have found out that the President of Kenya has given the go ahead to initiate the project despite our lack of knowledge of the proposed plans, project feasibility, or environmental impacts.
The plans for the Lamu Port are based on a 1977 feasibility study carried by the then Ministry of Power & Communications. The feasibility study on the Port, financed by China and carried out by Japan Port Consultants of Tokyo in 2010, is yet to be shared with the general public. Despite the community lacking awareness and failing to be consulted, we have learnt that the President of Kenya intends launched the project in March 2, 2012 prior to carrying out an environmental impact assessment to help determine the mitigation plan needed. Considering the fragility of the local ecosystem on which the Lamu communities are highly dependent on, this would be a great oversight on the part of the GOK and the project financers.
Lamu is a region rich in both ecological and cultural diversity, for which has allowed it to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lamu is not only endowed with biodiversity on the mainland, but additionally has some of the richest marine ecology in the Kenyan coastline. Unfortunately, many of the wildlife lie close to proposed Lamu Port site, while coral reefs that are a major tourist attraction in the area are in the heart of the Manda Bay site where the ships would have to sail through to get to the proposed port. The shores are lined with mangrove forests, where fish are known to breed in plenty. Considering that the residents of Lamu are highly dependent on fishing and local tourism as the major livelihood strategies, the Lamu Port, and other proposed projects for the transport and communication corridor, will undoubtedly have insurmountable negative effects on the local communities and environs. It therefore comes as a surprise to us that the GOK and financiers are going ahead with this venture before ensuring that a plan is put in place to reduce the impact on the people and its environs. It is for this reason that a 2010 report by Global Heritage Fund identified Lamu as being "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and damage following development pressure and insufficient management .
Since the plans have been underway for the corridor, the Lamu community have not had any information shared to them to highlight the Lamu port project. Available studies on the project have also not been shared publicly and the GOK has maintained unexplainably high confidentiality. Currently, the plans on the port are being maintained internally whereby individuals to access to the plans are scurrying to obtain land at the proposed development sites. Meanwhile, a large number of the locals remain internally displaced without any title deeds. This will no doubt continue to perpetuate the already highly sensitive nature of land tenure insecurity in the area.
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