In its 2020 report, UNESCO’s joint mission to Lamu Old Town has recommended that Kenya “not proceed with the proposed Lamu Coal Fired Power Station “as the project will have negative impacts” on Lamu Old Town, a World Heritage site since 2001.
The mission has further recommended that Lamu Old Town be considered for inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to ongoing threats to the built fabric and culture of Lamu, including the LAPSSET Corridor Project.
The Reactive Monitoring Mission published its report in June 2020 and uploaded it more recently to the UNESCO website. The mission had visited Lamu, hosted by National Museums, in December 2019. Community members and local organisations were informed one to two days prior to the mission’s arrival, resulting in minimal community engagement in the process.
The Kenyan government maintained that the meaningful characteristics of Lamu Old Town, those affecting its Outstanding Universal Value, “have not been affected by the proposed projects,” including LAPSSET and Lamu coal plant, in its brief state of conservation reports for UNESCO.
In mid-2019, in its final decision, the World Heritage Committee expressed great concern about the progression of LAPSSET and called for a halt to Lamu coal plant pending impact assessments, which to date have still not been submitted.
During those 2019 proceedings, the government of Kenya sought to strike mention of Lamu coal plant from the UNESCO statement, citing the NET ruling from one week prior, which invalidated the project’s ESIA license, to argue that Lamu coal plant was de facto cancelled. However, coal plant developer Amu Power appealed the ruling three weeks later; the appeal is still pending.
In February 2020, as UNESCO requested, the Kenyan government as represented by National Museums submitted a 2019 state of conservation report for Lamu. It stated unequivocally that the meaningful characteristics of Lamu Old Town, those affecting its Outstanding Universal Value, “have not been affected by the proposed projects,” including LAPSSET and Lamu coal plant. (Large-scale construction, including dredging, land reclamation, and land-clearing, on Lamu Port and roads has been ongoing since 2017.)
Kenya’s similar, short 2018 state of conservation report had been deemed insufficient by the World Heritage Committee in its 2019 decision.