1.         Lamu Old Town (Kenya) (C 1055)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2001

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1055/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2000-2004)
Total amount approved: USD 22,876
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1055/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

UNESCO/ICOMOS mission 22 to 27 March 2004

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Lack of Management plan; lack of risk preparedness, especially in the case of fire; sewerage situation; lack of resources.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1055/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2005

Following the joint UNESCO/ICOMOS mission to the property in March 2004 the State Party was requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004) (Decision 28 COM 15A.39) to implement the recommendations of the mission and to submit a detailed report on its progress.  The State Party sent a report on the state of conservation of Lamu Old Town on 1 March 2005 to the World Heritage Centre, which was transmitted to ICOMOS for review.  On the basis of the report, prepared by the National Museum of Kenya, Lamu, ICOMOS and the Centre concluded that overall the property is in a good state of conservation, but noted that since Lamu has been inscribed on the World Heritage List, less activities in public restoration and upgrading of public areas programmes have been taking place.  Concern is raised as no start has been made to implement the recommendations of last years assessment mission, especially no progress has been reported on the establishment of a Management Plan. 

The report mentioned that management and development of the Lamu Old Town is a complex issue which first of all entails more than one institution to administer its affairs, secondly fighting forces are many including political interventions and socio-economic forces that hinder the progress.  The need of a Management Plan has already been identified at the time of inscription of the property in 2001.  Many issues relating to the management of the property have been recognized, but no action seems to have been taken to address these seriously.  Such issues include: establishment of a World Heritage property Authority, risk preparedness (especially in the case of fire), manage uncontrolled development, extension of the property to include Shella town and its Sand Dunes as well as an extension of the buffer zone to include the mangrove area on Manda Island.  ICOMOS and the Centre wish to remind the State Party of its obligation towards the World Heritage Convention, to establish an appropriate Management Plan or other documented management system which should specify how the outstanding universal value of the property should be preserved, preferably through participatory means.  (Operational Guidelines, Paragraph 108)

ICOMOS noted that the report implies a lack of awareness, lack of capacity, economic decline and institutional set-up, which hinder the management of the Town and recommend that these issues be effectively addressed by the State Party and the site management.  It notes that the Lamu Planning Commission has not met for the last two years; conflicting interests appear between the authorities and private investors/community in the wake of a growing development; law enforcement is a problem due to political influences and foreigners continue to buy properties in the Old Town, changing the character of the town.  A decline in tourism has occurred, reported to be due to water and sanitation problems, but no short-, medium- and long-term solutions have been formulated to address this problem, which is important to the sustainable development of the town.

ICOMOS noted a lack of capacities in both the Lamu County Council and in the NMK Lamu Museum to properly manage a World Heritage city, as well as a conflict of interest between the two institutions paralyzing the proper management of the property, whereas the city would benefit from their close co-operation, which could be institutionalized within a heritage committee or a property authority. 

The Centre reports that upon the request of NMK, decentralized UNESCO funding (2004: US$ 5,000) foreseen for the improvement of capacities for Lamu, have been employed for the procurement of computers and office equipment for the newly established World Heritage property office, which should facilitate the office to fulfill its roles in the management and planning of the site. 

A UNESCO mission was undertaken to Lamu Island from 12 to 22 February, 2005 to assess the situation on water distribution, solid and liquid waste, in relation to public health, as recommended by the Committee at its 28th session (28 COM 15B.39) and with the support of the Italian Government through the Italian Funds-in-Trust.  The mission was also developed as an initiative to further assist the State Party and Lamu Old Town to improve the general standard conditions needed for the property to strengthen its status of World Heritage, in particular by formulating a preliminary phase for a rehabilitation project.

During the mission the experts (international and national) have analysed the urban environment of Lamu Old Town, the health situation of its population, the open drainage system as well as the urban cycle of water, water supply quality, wells, solid waste and excreta disposals.  The experts assessed the physical situation of the existing water and wastewater infrastructures and the need for their improvement.  Special attention was given to the Shela water catchments area (Shela sand dunes) as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004).

The mission’s main result in terms of analyzing the local situation was that it discovered an inappropriate service provision of water which, together with peripheral poverty, increasing unbalance between local and foreign population with an inadequate sanitation system constitute the major constraint to a proper management and conservation of Lamu Old Town World Heritage site.  In their assessment report and rehabilitation project proposal, the experts suggested a pilot project targeting minimal hygienic conditions necessary to bring about a sanitary and social improvement.  This includes the amelioration of the water supply and the drainage and sewerage systems as well as community solid waste collection initiatives.  The report outlines designs and budgets of the necessary rehabilitation project for the implementation of a minimum, optimum and ideal rehabilitation scenario.  It also contains proposals for additional hydro-geological studies for Lamu’s water catchment area.

The mission report also emphasized the need of protecting the vital water catchment area in the sand dunes of Lamu Island, from uncontrolled and illegal development.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 29 COM 7B.35

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-05/29.COM/7B.Rev,

2. Recalling its Decision 28 COM 15B.39, adopted at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004),

3. Acknowledges the receipt of a Status Report of Lamu Cultural Site, prepared by National Museums of Kenya, Lamu Town planning and Conservation Office;

4. Reiterates its request to the State Party of Kenya to initiate and develop a management plan for Lamu Old Town;

5. Recommends that the State Party implement and address the recommendations made by the Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004), including the recommendation to explore the possibility of extending the core and buffer zone of the property to include the Shella Sand Dunes and the mangrove area on Manda Island, in order to ensure the integrity of the World Heritage property;

6. Takes note of the findings of the UNESCO mission to assess the situation on water distribution, solid and liquid waste, in relation to public health, and welcomes the pilot project targeting minimal hygienic conditions necessary to bring about a sanitary and social improvement;

7. Invites donors to support the project for the rehabilitation of Lamu's water and sanitation structures, as well as its solid waste management;

8. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2006,a progress report on the implementation of the recommendations made by the joint 2003 UNESCO/ICOMOS mission, for examination by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006).