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Lamu Port and related infrastructure, Kenya


The development of a new port and associated infrastructure at Magogoni in Manda Bay near Lamu are among the major flagship proposals set out in Vision 2030. This is part of a long term vision to transform the economy of Northern Kenya by developing a Lamu Port and- Southern Sudan- Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) and it is, potentially, one of the largest infrastructure projects on the African continent. LAPSSET is set to include the port in Lamus Manda Bay; a standard-gauge railway line to Juba, South Sudan's capital; oil pipelines to South Sudan and Ethiopia; an oil refinery; three airports; and three resort locations in the Kenyan towns of Isiolo and Lamu and at the shores of Lake Turkana.

Lamu town is recognized by the Kenyan government as the oldest living town in Kenya. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a port that is said to be a thousand years old. Thus community resistance to the project is also motivated by concern is that the proposed port will destroy the history, heritage, and culture of the District.

The project will involve dredging shallow inland channels and felling shoreline-stabilizing mangrove forests. Experts say the process could disrupt artisanal fishing, the main source of income for around 70 percent of Lamu's 100,000 people, and destroy the environment, especially the mangrove plantations. In Lamu, the government has set aside 1,000 acres (404 ha) of land for the project. The Ministry of Lands says some 60,000 people may be displaced by the project. Furthermore in the Coast region less than 20 percent of residents have titles for the land they live on, making the land issue key. Many locals feel the port represents an additional 'land grab' by the government who is yet to institute land adjudication. They also complain of not being consulted and left out of the process.

Conservationists are also concerned that; construction of infrastructure will have an impact on River Tana, which is already facing challenges from existing and proposed developments. Water for domestic and industrial use will be drawn from river Tana, while the construction of the Lamu Port will stimulate major economic development opportunities and result in a massive increase in population which will exert further pressure on the resources in the Tana Delta.

By 2030, it is envisaged that the port and new town will be requiring 100,000m3/day and obtaining water from the High Grand Falls Dam, with an intake at the Nanighi Barrage (weir) and pumping a distance of 185 km, which has been considered as the prefered option among two other options.

In April 2013, Nature Kenya forwarded comments to NEMA on the project's EIA, rejecting it on grounds that the a Strategic Environmental Assessment ought to precede the EIA, making the project's EIA premature. This is because the project is a component of the larger LAPPSET project and therefore impacts need to be assessed holistically. Nature Kenya with funding from UKAid has been implementing a pilot program of Strategic Environmental Assessment and Land Use Planning in Tana Delta in order to address this and other conflicts in the region.

Feasibility studies for corridor components and the design of three berths and associated facilities in Lamu have been completed. The Kenyan government has set aside Kshs 2 billion for the construction of the three berth and a tendering process for the construction is ongoing.

The construction of Lamu Port headquarters is almost complete and the second phase of construction of the port which includes police lines and staff houses will be completed in June 2014.

A judge has allowed four human rights organisations to join a petition seeking to block the building of the multi-billion shilling Lamu port.

In June 2013, Four Human Rights NGOs opposing the project filed a court petition to stop the project. It has been referred to the Malindi High Court.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Lamu Port and related infrastructure, Kenya
State or province:Coast Region
Location of conflict:Lamu
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Wetlands and coastal zone management
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Transport Services
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Lamu Port project is part of the Lamu Port and- Southern Sudan- Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) project, which is a major flagship proposal set out in Vision 2030, with the aim of transforming the economy of Northern Kenya and opening up the region to create linkages between Kenya and other East African countries.

The project was launched by former Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki and President Gen. SalvaKiir of Southern Sudan in a formal ground breaking ceremony held in Lamu, in March 2012.

Feasibility studies for corridor components and the design of three berths and associated facilities in Lamu are complete. The Kenya government has set aside Kshs.2 billion for the construction of the three berths.

Lamu port will be three times the size of current Mombasa port at the more sheltered Manda Bay that is also large and deep enough to accommodate post-'Panamax' vessels. The three berths are designed to handle 30,000 Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT) and 100,000 DWT for general and bulk and container cargo respectively. The development of the berths is crucial for importation of building materials for the other project components.

Level of Investment:24,500,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:100,000-300,000
Company names or state enterprises:Korean International Cooperation Agency (Koica)
China Construction and Communication Company from China
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development; Kenya Ports Authority, Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Nature Kenya, BirdLife International, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, BirdLife, East African Wildlife Society, Lamu Marine Conservation Trust, Save Lamu, The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Centre for International Environmental Law, and Katiba and Muhuri, Harakati Okoa Lamu Forum, Lamu Environmental Protection and Conservation Group (LEPAC), Kenya Marine Forum; Lamu Beach Management Unit; Council of Elders; Lamu Youth Alliance; Riadha Academy; Kililana Farmers; Lamu Conservation and Development Network

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Ethnic groups impacted include Bajuni, Pokomo, Mijikenda, Orma Taita, and Somalis.
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:The need to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment for the larger LAPSSET project in order to component which are inadequate.
People also demand that the government repossess land that has been illegally acquired in Lamu District. It also called on the government to include residents in a land adjudication process and to pay a percentage of the port’s income to the residents.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Conservasionsts have expressed the need for a Strategic Environmental Assessment for the entire LAPSSET project. However, the EIA for Lamu Port was approved and implementation of related infrastructure is ongoing with no SEA in place.
Local residents have also expressed their concerns of loss of livelihoods and cultural heritage, considering the fact that the port will be located 10km from the historic town.
Though the government has assured residents that the historic sites and natural resources will not be harmed; this is difficult to achieve without a SEA for the project.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Environmental Management and Coordination Act, Kenya Ports Authority Act, County Governments Act

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Lamu Port Agency lamu.html

Save Lamu

Save Lamu

Lamu Port corridor threatens pastoralists


Le Monde Diplo


$24.5-billion Lamu port project under way

Vision 2030

KENYA: Disquiet over Lamu port project

Other documents

Meta information

Contributor:Serah Munguti
Last update09/08/2016