SAVING LAMU: KENYA’S INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ FIGHT FOR LAND AND LIVELIHOOD

Lamu, Kenya, 6 January 2016 – Off the coast of Kenya is a group of fifty five islands, the Lamu Archipelago, known for its semi-pristine biodiversity and rich cultural heritage. One of these islands, Lamu, is home to the oldest and best-preserved Kiswahili settlement in East Africa and in 2001, Old Lamu Town was declared a cultural World Heritage site.

The livelihoods of those indigenous peoples living in the broader Lamu County – consisting of the north-eastern coastal mainland and the Lamu Archipelago – are predominantly small-scale agriculture and fishing, and employment in the tourism industry which is an important part of the economy.

The privately owned Amu Power Company – a consortium of companies including Kenyan Gulf Energy, and Centum Investment, and the Chinese Sichuan Electric Power and Design – has proposed to build a coal-fired power plant of between 900 and 1000 megawatts in Manda Bay, Lamu County. The project was supposedly set to be completed in 2016 with that target moving to 2017, however various recent setbacks have made this date unlikely. In the initial stages, the power station will use coal imported from South Africa before using coal extracted from the Mui Basin.

A majority 98 percent of Kenya’s electricity is produced by hydro, geothermal and heavy oil-fired generation, with the remaining 2 percent being sourced from solar, wind and biomass generation. Only 23 percent of Kenya’s 45 million people have access to electricity. Identifying coal as a ‘cheap source of energy’, the Kenyan government has begun leasing about 31 demarcated blocks of coal reserve in Mui Basin in Kitui County for commercial domestic use and for exportation to international investors.

The local communities in the broader Lamu County have not been adequately consulted on this development via the proper public consultation methods, despite this having major potential impacts on them. They face a loss of livelihood and of traditional ways of life. Communities are likely to lose access to land that has been used for generations for hunting, gathering and seasonal farming. More than 3 000 artisanal and indigenous fisherfolk face lack of access to, and reduced productivity of, traditional fishing grounds.

The project will likely cause serious environmental impacts affecting Lamu County’s delicate marine ecosystem and its air quality, and harm the health of local communities. The project reportedly will involve extensive dredging and mangrove loss; discharge of cooling water into the bay, leading to a decline in marine populations and diversity; and chemical and particulate pollution of air, land and water. Communities are yet to receive any detailed proposals for minimizing, mitigating, or compensating for these impacts.

Say no to coal in Kenya by Tweeting:
@UKenyatta, please stop the Lamu coal power plant! We support @Savelamu & @LamuAntiCoal as they stand up for Life! #CoalKills #SaveLamu

Price Waterhouse Coopers Consortium, 2015, Towards a petroleum sector master plan in Kenya, pg. 143