Devastating New Port Proposal for the Lamu Archipelago
Please take action to avert destruction of this area critical to local communities and the future survival of the dugong and marine turtle species in Kenyan waters. (9 Feb 2009)
9 February 2009
During recent weeks, alarming plans have been revealed in Kenya to build a second port north of Lamu, the ancient trade center of the Lamu Archipelago along the northern Kenyan coast. While rumors have come and gone in the past about plans to extract oil and build a second port, this rumor has been firmly established as fact. Local farmers in the proposed location for this port were visited in January of this year by an official delegation and told that some of the 6,000 families likely to be displaced by the project will be compensated for land if the Port Authority decides to proceed with its plans. Sources on the ground suggest that construction is already proceeding. This has prompted widespread demonstrations against the development, as reported in the East African Standard Newspaper .
Tough economic times make attractive ideas that have lain dormant for some time. If plans for a second port are being revitalized, it seems that recent elections in Kenya have done little to restore government for the people. Locals have never been consulted, environmental impact assessments if ever performed, surely must have pointed to the tremendous negative impact on one of the world's most vital ecosystems to mainlining the health of the oceans: mangrove forests. To build, these relatively pristine forests in the Manda Bay area from Mkanda Channel to Dodori Creek would require extensive felling. East Africa has consistently lost mangrove cover in the order of 3,000 ha per year over the past quarter century (FAO, 2005) and increased rates of degradation, as through massive development in combination with pest outbreaks which have recently been detected in Kiunga's mangroves, would seriously imperil this fragile ecosystem and reduce its capacity to mitigate climate change effects.
In the past, local fisherman have hailed the Dodori Creek area as a shrimp sanctuary, vital to local subsistence fishermen, and defended the site from outside fishing and development interests. In the not too distant past, elephants crossed Mkanda Channel to neighboring Manda Island, although extensive disturbance has forced dwindling elephant populations, heavily poached and unprotected, to abandon these ancient pathways. The bay around Manda Island is protected by coral reefs and the inland channel, sheltered from the open sea by Pate Island, is known to support corals, sea grass beds and lush stands of mangroves - marine turtles use these areas regularly in the winter as feeding grounds and many species of reef fish and crustaceans feed here. The importance of this region to a critically endangered species, the dugong (Dugong dugon), is of paramount concern; these creatures depend on shallow sea grass beds exclusively for their survival and the last known dugong caught and subsequently released in Kenya occurred in this shallow channel just to the north of Dodori Creek. Dredging and cutting of the magnitude proposed would have untold impact on this animal, one of the nation's most threatened species, and potentially ensure local extinction.
Cited estimates for the construction cover 1,000 acres in the region of Manda Bay in Lamu District, including plans for an oil refinery and terminal, international airport and railway track to Juba in Southern Sudan. The tremendous destruction construction on such a scale would wreak on the natural environment can only be hazarded. In 1980, 60,000 hectares off the coast north of Lamu was designated a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Project in recognition of the international conservation importance of the north-eastern coastal region. The Dodori Creek mouth, proposed to be developed, sits at the edge of this biosphere reserve at coordinates 2°03' S and 41°00' E. The environmental impact alone, not to mention the effects on local subsistence fishermen and local farmers, would completely negate the intention of designation of this site to preserve in perpetuity the outstanding biodiversity, natural resources and ecology of the area through management that incorporates the full participation of local people. Construction would also impact two national reserves to the north of the proposed port site: Kiunga Marine National Reserve, along the coast, and Dodori National Reserve, in the interior.
At a pivotal moment in history when the world faces the threat of climate change, destruction of such an important marine environment for purposes associated with extracting, processing, and transporting more fossil fuels and other goods seems to fly in the face of international protocols aimed at reducing carbon emissions. It also flies in the face of fledgling Kenyan democracy. To those Kenyans who have fought and died for their rights to legitimate representation in government, this is nothing but another stab in the back by powers that be, powers that cling to their chance to line their pockets and take little interest in the displacement of thousands of their own. Ironically, such displacement in Kenya seems to connect repressive lines on the map, for construction of a railway line from the south of Sudan would only strengthen the Sudanese government's policy of complacency and support for the genocide still raging in Darfur. On all counts, this proposal for a second port in Lamu is an affront to the entire world community.
The United States, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, India and China are listed as financial supporters of various aspects associated with this project.
Please take action to avert destruction of this area critical to local communities and the future survival of the dugong and marine turtle species in Kenyan waters:
Urge President Obama, www.whitehouse.gov/contact, to cut financial ties to the development of Kenya's second port if plans proceed at the Lamu site. Such a project in the land of his father would displace thousands of people and has bypassed any type of environmental impact assessment and public review. Also please contact your senators and representatives urging them to pressure the Obama administration to cut financial ties to this project.
Urge Prime Minister Odinga, email@example.com, to stop plans for construction of the Lamu port pending open public review and environmental impact assessment.
Write to Kenyan Ports Authority managing director, James Mulewa, www.kpa.co.ke/contactus.asp, and ask him to withdraw plans for the Lamu site as a second port pending environmental impact assessment and open public review.
Assistant Transport Minister Harun Mwau can also be contacted with a similar message at www.transport.go.ke/index.php?option=com_contact&task=view&contact_id=23&Itemid=44
Submitted by: Erin Gubelman