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


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Lack of management mechanism (including legislation); Lack of institution coordination

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2004

At its 27th session the Committee requested the Centre and ICOMOS to cooperate with the State Party to undertake a monitoring mission to Lamu, Kenya in order to ascertain the state of conservation of the property.  The Committee further requested the State Party to cooperate with the Centre and ICOMOS in the development of a programme for the rehabilitation of Lamu and to identify needs for assistance from the World Heritage Fund and from other sources for rehabilitation activities of the property. The mission was undertaken from 22 to 27 March 2004.


The Centre and ICOMOS mission notes that three years after inscription on the World Heritage List, Lamu’s state of conservation is satisfactory. There is no marked uncontrolled development that threatens Lamu’s position as a World Heritage site, or serious signs of purposeful mismanagement of the Heritage. The National Museums of Kenya (NMK), the Lamu County Council and the District Commissioner have all exercised strong sense of responsibility and co-operated in the management of the site. The original major threat to the management of the heritage as reported to the 27th session of the Committee and which forced NMK to seek UNESCO’s assistance has shown signs of being contained altogether.


The Centre and ICOMOS noted that Lamu needs a particular attention in its management as a World Heritage Site in order to direct it to thwart the many prospective threats to its identity, while also ensuring its perpetual capability of retaining its physical and spiritual identity over changing times.


The property needs a management plan in order to take on board the many administrative, economic, social and physical issues and mould them into one comprehensive program. The advantage of nearby Mombasa hosting regional and universal heritage preservation programs as Program for Museum Development Africa and Africa 2009 courses, may be utilised to provide the necessary logistics and some professionals for the task.


Fire is a constant threat to Lamu. Among other threats are the local building materials – particularly roofing – materials and the much needed fuel to power the hundreds of boats. As a temporary precaution, the existing laws related to fire prevention needs to be reinforced with immediate effect. The storage of fuel needs to be closely controlled as it seems the most probable cause of future fires. The selling of fuel should be moved away from the Lamu Old Town core zone. Public buildings need to have functional fire fighting equipment and the public should be made aware of fire as a threat.


The Centre and ICOMOS mission team could not examine the proposed drainage rehabilitation plan supposedly to be funded by the Japanese Government. But from the discussion with the Senior Conservator of Lamu Fort, it seems that the Project will not address the issue of sewerage. It may be because the issue of sewerage in Lamu is not considered problematic due to the traditional way of naturally dispensing it by always digging new pits when the old ones become full. It is strongly recommended that a comprehensive study to Lamu island’s solid and liquid waste management be conducted, with particular concern to the sewerage situation and what the most viable way of dispensing it should be adapted.


The new Heritage Bill to be tabled before the Kenyan Parliament is a welcome news. It should not, however, be considered to be that much comprehensive and final as to solve all problems facing Lamu Old Town.


Lamu and Kenya does not possess all the resources needed to warrant the proper management of the World Heritage Site. Fortunately, the Government is aware of the matter and is doing all within its powers to seek additional resources.


Current demarcation of the Lamu core World Heritage Town needs rethinking. It ends abruptly leaving outside significant historic buildings. The mangrove screens of Manda and other islets of the archipelago, though nationally protected, are not part of the World Heritage Site, though without them – at least visually – the Lamu town would be radically changed. Then there are the unique sand dunes also nationally gazetted but outside the World Heritage Buffer zone. Ideally they should have been merged into one. But such vast expanse of nature and culture to be effectively controlled by poorly equipped and staffed Lamu Museum and the County Council may make it practically unrealistic. One possible solution is the gradual assimilation of the whole island and the archipelago into the World Heritage zone. Meanwhile, IUCN should be requested to study the natural values of the sand dunes as suggested in the mission report.


The Centre and ICOMOS mission conclude that Lamu is in a satisfactory state of conservation. 

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


Decision Adopted: 28 COM 15B.39

The World Heritage Committee,
1. Commends the government of Kenya for its continued commitment to address the concerns over the urban developments on Lamu Island;

2. Recommends that the State Party initiate a management plan for Lamu, and request International Assistance under the World Heritage Fund to develop the plan which should seek to encourage participatory management of the property, as a base for coordinated management;

3. Encourages the State Party to continue exploring the possibility of gradually extending the current limits of the World Heritage Property to cover the whole Lamu Town, the town of Shela and her sand dunes, as well as taking into considerations such natural values as the mangroves;

4. Also recommends that the State Party take all the necessary measures to protect the mangroves opposite the Lamu seafront on the shores of the neighbouring Manda Island, which are important to ensure the integrity of the World Heritage property;

5. Advises the State Party to submit a request of International Assistance to undertake a study, in co-operation with IUCN, on the environmental characteristics of the dunes, which retain the fresh water despite being near the sea, and the measures to protect them, as well as on health, water and energy issues affecting the property;

6. Requests the State Party to submit a detailed report on the progress made on the implementation of the joint World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS mission recommendations, and particularly on the progress made on the establishment of a management plan, by 1 February 2005, for the consideration by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.