Friday, March 5, 2010

Kenya’s Second Port Spells Double Devastation

It has been said that the greatest threat in the race to avert the global climate crisis is business as usual. At the highest level, business as usual is at the roots of current threats to one of the most internationally important ecosystems in Kenya: the Lamu Archipelago via the proposal to build a second national port for the country and situate it in the very heart of the archipelago.

The Kenyan government seems intent on developing a second national port and has gone to great lengths and distances to secure interest and capital for the project – as far as Qatar and China, which, until recently, had seemed to be the prominent cash cows for the existing proposal. Financial injection for the port hinged for a time on the leasing of 40,000 ha of land to Qatar in return for financing a proportion of the port. The land proposed to be leased lay within the Tana River Delta, an area of international conservation importance, itself, which is already facing a myriad of threats. However, as recently as a month ago, Qatar shelved the lease which might have made the port unviable. China, however, has stepped up its involvement further and agreed to fund the project. The project is by no means a small one - rather a 1.23 trillion shilling or, roughly, 17 billion dollar, venture. Cited estimates for the construction cover 1,000 acres in Lamu District, including plans for an oil refinery and terminal, international airport and railway track to Juba in Southern Sudan. In Lamu alone, 6,000 families are likely to be displaced by the project but this figure barely scratches the surface of the much larger impact the port is likely to have.

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Please take action to save the Lamu Archipelago. Send the action letter below or your own to the Prime Minister of Kenya by copying it into your email. Please cc. it to the following leaders:

Prime Minister Raila Odinga:
cc. Kenya Ports Authority Managing Director James Mulewa:
Minister of Transport, Hon. Chirau Ali Mwakwere:

---- Take Action ------

Dear Prime Minister,

I write to speak out against the reckless plans to build a second national port in Lamu. As you know, mangrove forests are the first line of defense against sea level rise associated with global warming. Their value in carbon storage alone is very significant and mangroves are threatened along the entire East African coastline. To build this port, the mangrove forests in the Manda Bay area from Mkanda Channel to Dodori Creek would require extensive felling. East Africa has consistently lost mangrove cover over the past quarter century and increased rates of degradation would seriously imperil this fragile ecosystem and reduce its capacity to mitigate climate change effects.

Cited estimates for the construction of the second port cover 1,000 acres in the region of Manda Bay in Lamu District, including plans for an oil refinery and terminal, international airport and railway track to Southern Sudan. The tremendous destruction to the natural environment from such developments can only be guessed at without public record of Environmental Impact Assessment. In 1980, 60,000 hectares off the coast north of Lamu was designated a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Project in recognition of the international conservation importance of the north-eastern coastal region. The Dodori Creek mouth, proposed to be developed, sits at the edge of this biosphere reserve at coordinates 2°03’ S and 41°00’ E. The environmental impact alone, not to mention the effects on local fishermen and farmers, would negate the intention of designation of this site to preserve the biodiversity, natural resources and ecology of the area through management that incorporates local people. Construction would also impact two national reserves to the north of the proposed port site: Kiunga Marine and Dodori National Reserve.

Local people have never been consulted yet local farmers in the proposed location for this port were visited in January of 2009 by an official delegation and told that some of the 6,000 families likely to be displaced by the project will be compensated for land if the Port Authority decides to proceed with its plans. In 1997, under public pressure, the World Bank halted a plan to relocate 600 families in the center of a critical habitat for a threatened primate species in the Tana Delta because moving people for plants and animals was wrong, but the government can evict 6000 families in Lamu and others in the Tana River for economic reasons?

At a pivotal moment in history when the world faces the threat of climate change, degradation of such an important marine environment in Lamu for purposes associated with extracting, processing, and transporting more fossil fuels and other goods seems to fly in the face of international protocols aimed at reducing carbon emissions. It also suggests that Kenya has no compunction in violating international designations such as the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve boundary established in 1980 which would be negated by such large scale industrial activities along its edge. Please reconsider both the site for the 2nd port and, potentially, the necessity of building a 2nd port at all pending environmental impact assessment.


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