Since 2001, the World Heritage Committee has examined the state of conservation of Lamu at every session, related to persistent threats identified above, and the lack of adequate structures or resources to address these threats in a systematic way and long-term way. At the last session, the larger issues of oil exploration and nearby port development were addressed. The State Party was asked to report back to the World Heritage Committee in 2010. However, in the light of the concerns expressed by the State Party about extensive developments on the Shella sand dunes which are likely to have an adverse impact on water resources as well as the integrity of the property, this report has been drafted.
On 1 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report gives a brief overview of progress with the main issues identified at the 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008), details of conservation work at indivual buildings and details of a donor conference.
a) Uncontrolled development
In spite of efforts by the National Museum of Kenya (NMK) and local government agencies, it is stated that a few “politically connected individuals” have attempted to undertake development of the property and the buffer zone that would threaten its integrity. For instance, a private developer has put up a perimeter wall around an area used as a boat repair yard.
Of more concern is the threat to the Shella sand dunes. In June 2008, a private developer began to construct a hotel within the protected area of the Shella sand dunes, part of the buffer zone. Apparently this is one of many plots earmarked for cancellation by the Chief Lands Registrar. The NMK has undertaken a scientific study of the Shella sand dunes which underlines its importance for water resources – something some developers had challenged. The NMK has developed an alliance with the National Water Resources Management Authority to conserve the dunes. Lamu residents have also petitioned the Minister of Lands to deal conclusively with the encroachment of the dunes. However, there appears to be the potential for a major conflict between the Lamu County Council and the NMK. The NMK has brought the matter to the attention of ‘top government officials’ but still considers that it needs much more support from the ministries concerned in order to protect this crucial resource.
The NMK has managed to deflect many less major threats using existing legislation and the County Council has introduced new by-laws and now employs a District Engineer. The District Physical Planning Liaison Committee, which is the responsible planning authority, is said to be now much more sensitive to the significance of the property after a workshop for them run by the NMK in July 2008.
b) Development of Kenya’s second port
Consultations with the Ministry of Transport and Communications have indicated that the proposed port will be at Magagoni Creek, 20km north of the property. If the port goes ahead, it has been agreed that both the Ministry of National Heritage and NMK will be consulted at all levels and a cultural and archeological impact assessment will be carried out before a development is carried out. However, the NMK has lodged an appeal to ask that it is involved in the whole planning process. However, it is stated that if the location of the port remains unchanged, it should not impact adversely on the property.
c) Oil exploration
The oil and gas exploration has been abandoned after a survey indicated insufficient resources.
d) Extension of the buffer zone
The Ras-Kitau-Manda skyline area was gazetted in April 2008 as an extension to the buffer zone. Proposals to extend the buffer zone to the whole of the Lamu archipelago have been included in various discussion papers including the development of cultural heritage assets on Pate Island.
e) Strengthen infrastructure
The NMK has been lobbying the government to allocate more funds for the conservation and maintenance of the property. Specifically, it has suggested that the Ministry of Local Government allocated a special fund out of the Lamu County Council Local Authority transfer fund to reduce the burden on the NMK.
In November 2008, the NMK convened a donors’ conference to mobilize technical and financial resources for a rescue plan that addressed the challenges facing the property and its buffer zone.
The conference agreed that:
- It was necessary to extend the gazetted boundary of the water catchment area from 958 to 17,000 acres;
- The need to set up a Community Conservation Fund for the restoration of old houses;
- The need for the government through local agencies to control the informal settlements impacting on the property;
- The development of the new port should respect all the historical sites in the area.
The following major improvement projects are being implemented:
- One year project for the restoration of manuscripts in Lamu Fort library and Riyadh Islamic Academy – with grant from the American Government;
- Improvements to the fish and meat market;
- Improvements to street paving and lighting;
- Renovation of the main jetty;
- Provision of waste collection bins.
The following major schemes have been presented to donors:
- Rehabilitation of Lamu Fort (USD 72,000);
- Upgrading of Lamu seafront with concrete paving slabs (USD 650,000).
f) Archaeological investigation
The Chinese Government has provided USD 3.7M to support the exploration of a Chinese wreck at Pazali. This work will commence in June 2009.
g) Finalise and approve management plan and supplementary action plan
A donation from a sponsor of USD 50,000 will cover the costs of the third consultation meeting on the plan to be held in March 2009. An action plan has been drawn up which is due to be ratified at this meeting.
h) Published Regional Development Plan
This plan is out for consultation.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that oil and gas exploration have now been discontinued and that the current location for the large new port means that it is unlikely to have a major impact on the property but nevertheless stress the need for NMK to be involved in the whole planning process for the proposed port.
Concerning the Shella sand dunes, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are extremely concerned at the potential conflict over the development of the area and the need for its protection as an essential part of the setting of the property.
They further note the intention to formally increase the buffer zone to include the Ras-Kitau-Manda skyline area, a proposal that need to be presented to the World Heritage Committee for approval. The conference of donors is a major step forward towards gaining support for conservation and maintenance of the property. Details of the two major projects for which donor support is being sought should be notified to the World Heritage Committee in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.