Lamu port project stalls

Artist impression of the Lamu port.
Artist’s impression of the Lamu port. PHOTO/COURTESY
Months after the launch of the massive Lamu port project, it is emerging that serious questions remain regarding the consequences of the project and the future of the people living in the areas earmarked for the proposed port.

According to the UN office’s humanitarian news and analysis service IRIN, it is feared that the project will displace thousands of people in Lamu County, degrade marine environments that support the local communities, while increasing risk of conflict as Kenya prepares for general elections on March 4, 2013.

“This project will displace many people from their homes, yet the government is not very clear on what plans they have for those who will be displaced,” Abubakar-Al Amudi, the head of Save Lamu, told IRIN.

About 60,000 people will be displaced by the project according to the Ministry of Lands, and with just four months until the polls human right activists say the issue of displacement could be used to instigate violence.

“Land ownership has been used by politicians every election year to incite communities against each other, all aimed at getting political support and to exclude those they think might not support them,” said Hussein Khalid, the executive director of the NGO Muslims for Human Rights.

Although the government has assured that all those displaced by the project will be resettled, the local communities remain sceptical as most of them do not have any title deeds.

The Lamu port project, which is part of the Sh2 trillion LAPSSET (Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport and Economic Development) project, will involve construction of 32 berths at Manda Bay – estimated to be three times the size of Kilindini.

Experts say the project is likely to destroy the environment, especially the mangrove plantations, and artisanal disrupt fishing – the main source of livelihood for around 90 per cent of the area residents.

Alfredo Quarto, director of the NGO Mangrove Action Project said: “The project will destroy shallow waters and mangroves, a key habitat for fish, and many poor locals will lose their only source of livelihood.”

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