UNESCO 2021: Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

6. Lamu Old Town (Kenya) (C 1055)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2001
Criteria (ii)(iv)(vi)
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A

Previous Committee Decisions

International Assistance
Requests approved: 4 (from 2000–2021)
Total amount approved: USD 61,436

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided: for a Heritage Impact Assessment in 2014: USD 85,000: Netherlands Funds- in-Trust; for a workshop on Historic Urban Landscapes in 2011: USD 22,943: Flanders Funds-in-Trust

Previous monitoring missions

March 2004: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; February 2005: World Heritage Centre Advisory mission on water and sanitation assessments; May 2010 and February 2015: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring missions; January 2018: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Advisory mission (Nairobi) on LAPSSET project; December 2019: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

  • Management systems/ management and conservation plan
  • Clarification of boundaries and buffer zone
  • Pressure from urban development
  • Marine transport infrastructure
  • Air transport infrastructure
  • Encroachment of the archaeological sites
  • Housing/Deterioration of dwellings/Urban sprawl
  • Solid waste
  • Non-renewable energy facilities (Coal Power plant)

Illustrative material

Current conservation issues

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property from 29 November to 5 December 2019 (mission report available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1055/documents/). Subsequently, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 3 February 2020, which is also available at the above-mentioned address, and responds in detail to Decision 43 COM 7B.107, as follows:

  • The State Party reported that work is ongoing on an assessment of the condition of the built fabric with collaboration of the county government and the site management;
  • The State Party process of delineating the boundaries of the property and an enlarged buffer zone is still in progress;
  • Development of the Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project is ongoing. Other projects such as the metropolis and resort city, oil pipeline, international airport, and railways have not yet been started. The State Party notes that detailed plans are not completed for many of the projects within the larger LAPSSET development. The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) is now a member of the technical committee for the LAPSSET Master Plan;
  • In regard to Environmental and Heritage Impact Assessments (EIAs/HIAs), the government is undertaking a review and revision of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and the HIA for the first 3 berths has been submitted to the consultant as part of this revision process;
  • The project for the coal power plant has been put on hold as a result of the 2019 National Environment Tribunal decision;
  • The revision of the management plan is ongoing with input from different stakeholders including government agencies and civil society.

The State Party further submitted three inception reports for planning projects being undertaken under the World Bank funded Kenia Urban Services Project (KUSP). The projects are:

  • Solid Waste Policy for Lamu Municipality;
  • Lamu Municipality Integrated Development Plan;
  • Lamu Island Integrated Urban Development Plan (2020–2035).

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The poor state of conservation of the property and lack of building controls observed by the mission, which pose a threat to its integrity and authenticity, remains of significant concern.

The clarification of the boundaries and the extension of the buffer zone is also of the utmost urgency. As requested repeatedly, the buffer zone should at the very least incorporate all of Lamu Island and a significant part of Manda Island, as well as the relevant mangrove belts. However, while the State Party reports that the delineation of the boundaries and the enlarged buffer zone is still in process, no indication is given as to when the works will be completed. While recognizing the political difficulties of putting a buffer zone in place, it remains of utmost priority. The KUSP projects’ inception reports were reviewed by ICOMOS, which considered that the projects cannot achieve their goals before the property and buffer zone boundaries have been clarified. Furthermore, the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property should be thoroughly taking into account in the conceptualization of the three KUSP projects.

The reported progress made in revising the Management Plan to incorporate aspects of the LAPSSET project is also noted. This should be completed along with the revision of the buffer zone to ensure a functional management system. Addressing water security and sanitation remains equally urgent.

The mission noted considerable advancement on the construction of the three berths of the new LAPSSET harbor, the highway construction, and the headquarters of the LAPSSET Authority.

Greater awareness of the potential threats of LAPSSET to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property needs to be established at the political and civil society levels. The LAPSSET SEA should take into account the individual and potential cumulative impacts of the project on the OUV of the property, as well as on Lake Turkana World Heritage property, as requested by the Committee in 2019 (Decision 43 COM 7B.107). The SEA should be completed urgently and submitted for review, before any of the other components of the LAPSSET project are initiated. Regarding the requested Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the LAPSSET Authority and the NMK, the State Party makes no mention of its completion, but it must be stressed that finalising this MoU would be a stronger indication that LAPSSET intends to involve the NMK in any decisions of the project that may affect heritage along the corridor.

The Committee may wish to recommend that the State Party send a High-Level governmental delegation, including representatives of the Ministry of Sport, Culture and Heritage and the National Museums of Kenya, to the property to assess the range and urgency of the challenges faced in the maintenance of its OUV and request that the State Party establish a Heritage Task Team, composed of relevant government agencies from both the national and local levels with the support and involvement of civil society, in order to develop proper responses. To improve engagement and partnership with civil society, the creation of a Lamu Island stakeholders and community forum, which can also work closely with the LAPSSET project, is recommended.

The State Party and LAPSSET Corridor Development Authority should establish a corporate social responsibility programme to ensure sufficient funding for conservation and heritage related activities. The County Government may wish to participate to ensure that cultural and heritage related work is adequately funded.

The hold on the Coal Plant project is welcome, as the mission recommended that the proposed coal plant would likely have negative impacts on the OUV of the property as well as the larger environment around Lamu. The State Party should explore alternatives to the plant and ensure that any further development of energy generation infrastructure undergo independent EIAs and HIAs.

While no negative impacts of the Manda airport upgrade project were found by the mission team, it is noted that an HIA was requested before work was implemented. It is hoped that in the future, the impact of such projects on the OUV of the property will be assessed through independent HIAs before irreversible decisions are made and projects are implemented.

As a final consideration, given the continuing concern regarding ascertained and potential threats to the OUV of the property, it is noted that the 2019 mission recommended that the State Party consider requesting the World Heritage Committee to include Lamu Old Town on the List of World Heritage in Danger as a means to active international support. The State Party in discussions requested more time to implement the mission recommendations. Given the seriousness of the issues, the Committee should consider requesting the State Party to invite a Reactive Monitoring mission in the first half of 2023 to examine implementation of the recommendations and the state of conservation of the property.

Compiled research and news about ongoing attempts to develop a coal industry in Kenya. #deCOALonize