Kenya: LAPSSET Project in Lamu

Farmer, Omar Shee, in front of his farm house and road cutting through his farm at Kililana without being compensated or resettled (photo: Save Lamu)


Accountability Counsel supports the Kenyan organization Save Lamu in its efforts to protect Lamu communities from environmental, social and cultural threats related to the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (“LAPSSET”) mega-project.

The LAPSSET Project is a series of interrelated industrial and infrastructural developments, including: a large port in Lamu; a railway, road and highway network crossing all of Northern Kenya and connecting South Sudan and Ethiopia to the port in Lamu; a crude oil pipeline and oil refinery; several resort cities and airports throughout Northern Kenya; a coal power plant in Lamu; and all the necessary support infrastructure for metropolis development. Communities in Lamu are particularly concerned about two elements of the LAPSSET project: a multi-berth port already under construction and a planned coal-fired power plant, both of which are moving forward without properly protecting human rights and the environment. Community focus is currently on the coal plant, which, if completed, will be the first coal-fired power plant in Kenya.

Accountability Counsel is assisting Save Lamu in its struggle to protect local communities and the environment from the coal power plant, which the African Development Bank (“AfDB”) is considering supporting through provision of a partial risk guarantee. Communities are concerned that the coal plant is being developed without meaningful consultation or consideration of the high human rights, environmental and cultural risks.

On 1 October 2015, Save Lamu sent a letter to the AfDB explaining community concerns and demanding additional consultation and due diligence procedures. Although AfDB Management responded with an assurance that the Bank would conduct a careful review of the project’s environmental and social impacts before making a decision to support the project, communities remain concerned due to significant flaws in an early Environmental Project Report and the threat of displacement of persons without a Resettlement Action Plan.

There is also a concern that the piecemeal assessment of LAPSETT-related projects fails to fully recognize the social and environmental impacts of LAPSETT as a whole. Directly as a result of the likely negative impacts on Lamu Old Town, a World Heritage Site, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”) has repeatedly requested that construction of various LAPSSET-related projects be halted “in order to allow time for a full assessment of its wider direct and indirect impacts on the property and for appropriate mitigation measures to be defined and implemented”.

Accountability Counsel has been working with Save Lamu since early 2012, conducting research regarding financing for the LAPSSET Project and assisting Save Lamu in voicing concerns to various stakeholders such as the AfDB and UNESCO. In late 2013, Accountability Counsel travelled to Lamu to hold information and training sessions with a coalition of civil society organizations from across Northern Kenya, all of whom will be affected by the LAPSSET Project. Together with Save Lamu, we will continue to pressure the AfDB and other stakeholders to demand compliance with all relevant environmental and human rights standards.

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