At its 33rd session (Seville, 2009), the World Heritage Committee requested the State Party to invite a joint WHC/ICOMOS/ICCROM mission to the property in 2010 and to submit a State of Conservation Report on the property by 1 February 2011 for discussion at its 35th session. Subsequently, due to reports that a proposed port project near Lamu was potentially imminent, the mission schedule was accelerated and a mission took place from 6 to 9 May 2010. The schedule for the State Party report, however, was not changed, and therefore, no report has yet been submitted.
Given the situation outlined above, this report deals with only four important issues in regard to the property; the proposed Lamu Port project, the need to protect the fragile water resources of the property, the need for a clear property boundary and adequate buffer zone, and the need to complete the management plan. Other issues such as the need for a more comprehensive sustainable development plan for Lamu Island, the state of conservation of buildings at the property, uncontrolled developments, etc. will be considered in a follow-up state of conservation report when the State Party has had the opportunity to submit its own report.
a) The proposed Lamu port project
During the mission, the State Party informed the members that there was no definitive project yet for the port, and that a feasibility study had yet to be carried out. It was stated that until a more definitive project was ready, it would not be possible to give more information in regard to the size and scope of the proposed port, its details and possible impacts. Nevertheless, a large number of newspaper articles have been written on the topic, and information was obtained by the mission at a stakeholder meeting organized by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and through discussions with various stakeholders. Subsequent to the mission, a regional development plan was obtained by the mission experts as well as other reports of the proposed developments. From this information, the following can be ascertained.
The proposed site of the new port would be on the mainland of Manda Bay approximately 15 to 20 km from Lamu Town and is meant to serve an area including Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern part of the DRC. A Japanese consultant had been engaged to make a feasibility study. It was said that there would, potentially, be room for up to 22 berths for large tanker ships and that the entire development area could stretch as far as 25 kilometres along the coast. In addition to the port, it has been reported that other infrastructure such as a railway, highway, pipeline, oil refinery, and oil storage tanks could be included in the project as well as the necessary housing, warehouses, and other infrastructure necessary to support these activities. It was further reported that development could begin within a year. It was not clear from the documents and discussions if the State Party had completely abandoned the idea of oil exploration as had been reported previously to the World Heritage Committee.
It is important to emphasize that the above description is based on newspaper articles, the stakeholder meeting, conversations that took place during the mission, and a few documents obtained after the mission, rather than through official information provided directly by the State Party. It cannot, therefore, be verified, and it is not clear how much of the proposed development the State Party plans to carry out. It is clear, however, that any large port development project would bring in unprecedented new levels of population growth and put strong pressures on both the cultural and natural values of the region.
The mission experts, after having visited the potential site and obtaining the information in circulation, were concerned that the potential size and scope of the project could have a profound impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Potential negative impacts could include (although may not be limited to) disruption of traditional fishing practices which are part of Lamu’s traditional role as a port; damage to the setting of the property and its marine environment / ecosystem, thereby diminishing its integrity; significant development pressures caused by the influx of population and economic activity could put pressure on both the traditional architecture and on the fragile natural resources such as fresh water; and major social and cultural disruptions caused by the population influx could have a severe impact on the living cultural and religious traditions associated with the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note first that the State Party has not yet provided information to the World Heritage Committee, in accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, on the details of this major new project and its potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Given the priority which the project apparently has, according to numerous sources, there is particular concern that this information comes early enough in the decision-making process to ensure that the Committee “may assist in seeking appropriate solutions to ensure that the outstanding universal value of the property is fully preserved” (paragraph 172). In addition, a thorough Environmental and Cultural Impact Assessment, to evaluate the impact of the project on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property should be carried out in full cooperation with the National Museums of Kenya, and the results submitted to the World Heritage Centre for examination by the Advisory Bodies.
b) The Water Catchment Area and Developments at the Shela Sand Dunes
As has been reported at earlier Committee sessions, the presence of fresh water, on which the property (and Lamu Island as a whole) relies for its continued viability, is threatened by encroachment and illegal development. In 2002 a small part (approximately 900 ha) of the sand dune system of Lamu Island which acts as the water catchments area for the property was gazetted, and in 2003 the Water Resources Management Authority was set up to manage and protect these delicate resources. This organisation has been working closely with the NMK since then, and a report was prepared in 2008 on the situation regarding fresh water which notes the following serious concerns: depletion and overuse of the groundwater; seawater intrusion into the groundwater system; pollution caused by human waste and activities; reduction of natural vegetation covering the dunes; and reduction of surface area of the dunes due to illegal constructions (two houses have already been constructed, a hotel development has been stopped after construction began, and a number of plots have been fenced off). The report recommended that the entire water catchment area, measuring approximately 19 square kilometers be gazetted to protect this fragile water source. Requests have also been made to the Chief Registrar of Lands, Ministry of Lands, to cancel title deeds that had been issued for some of the dune areas in order to deal definitively with the encroachment issue. A donor conference held in 2008 recommended that the entire dune system be incorporated into the buffer zone of the World Heritage property to ensure its integrity. The World Heritage Committee recommended this at its 33rd session (Seville), but the State Party has not yet taken action in this regard.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies remain very concerned about the encroachments on the sand dunes at Shela which represent a potential problem for viability of the World Heritage property. Without access to fresh water, Lamu town would cease to be the living town that was inscribed on the World Heritage List. The National Museums of Kenya and the Water Resources Management Authority should be congratulated on doing the necessary scientific studies on the water situation and also making the findings widely available to the local community and to decision makers at the local and national levels. Efforts still need to be made, however, to ensure that the encroachments stop, that the title deeds that were issued are revoked, that the remaining land of the dunes system is gazetted, and that the dunes are incorporated into the buffer zone of the property. These actions will take a concerted effort of various institutions within the State Party including the National Museums of Kenya, the Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture, the Ministry of Lands, the Ministry of the Environment, and others.
c) Demarcation of the Boundaries of the Property and Enlargement of the Buffer Zone
In discussions with staff of the National Museums of Kenya, the boundaries of the site were indicated as being those found in the area marked “limits of designated conservation area” on a map in Annex 2 of the nomination dossier titled, “Development Plan for the Conservation Area”. This map was prepared in the late 1980s and was not specifically made for the World Heritage nomination and nothing on the map (or in the nomination dossier) specifically equates the conservation area with the boundaries of the World Heritage property. For clarity, the mission therefore suggested that the State Party should resubmit this map clearly labelling the conservation area as the boundaries of the World Heritage property.
At the same time, there has been ongoing discussion as to the necessary boundaries of the buffer zone in order to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The original nomination submission indicated a red square around the property as the buffer zone but this did not correspond to any geographical features. From the time of inscription there have been several requests from the World Heritage Committee to extend this buffer zone to offer more effective protection to the property. The request has changed over time with variations including requests for the buffer zone to include the whole of Lamu Town, Shela and the sand dunes; the whole island of Lamu; the mangroves of Manda Island, Ras Kitau and Manda Island; and also all the islands of the Lamu archipelago inclusive of Paté Island.
The recommendation of the mission was that the best solution would be to have the buffer zone expanded to include all of the islands of the Lamu archipelago. This larger buffer zone would ensure the integrity of the property. If that does not prove feasible, the mission considered that at least the whole of Lamu and Manda islands should be included. The whole of Lamu Island should be a part of the buffer zone to protect the fragile sand dunes and to better help control unplanned development around the property, and Manda Island should be included to protect the visual integrity of the property, and natural features such as the mangrove ecosystem which are important to Lamu’s role as a port.
Further complicating the issue, the National Museums of Kenya has indicated that it has enlarged the buffer zone, but has not informed the World Heritage Centre of this larger area.
The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies concur with the results of the mission, and consider that an extension of the buffer zone could help the State Party to better plan for the protection of the property, especially in the light of the potential large developments being discussed.
d) The finalization of the management plan
In response to a previous request by the World Heritage Committee for the preparation of a management plan, a process was begun in 2006 that has lead to a draft management plan for the property. An International Assistance request has been submitted by the State Party to carry out some additional stakeholder meetings and finalise the plan for approval by the appropriate ministries and the District Development Committee.
As set out above, there remain a number of other issues of importance to the state of conservation of the property that will need to be dealt with in the normal course of State of Conservation reporting. These include: changes to the architectural heritage, unplanned development around the property that is impacting on it, a number of development projects planned for inside the property, enlargement of informal settlements, changes of ownership, and sustainable development. The mission considered that these issues should be reviewed on the basis of information provided by the State Party as part of the state of conservation report that has been requested by the Committee for submission by 1 February 2011.