Lamu fishermen seek suspension of LAPSSET

Fishermen complain that dredging Lamu port will kill their source of income. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Fishermen complain that dredging Lamu port will kill their source of income. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Lamu fishermen Tuesday told a five-judge bench that the ongoing construction of the multi-billion Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor project is harming the environment and their cultural life.

Mohamed Somo, the Lamu Beach Management Unit chairman, said the LAPSSET project has distorted the heritage of the island which is a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) world heritage site.

He urged Justices John Mativo, Jaden Thuranira, Pauline Nyamweya, Joel Ngugi and Joseph Onguto sitting in Malindi to suspend the project until the government observes guidelines on protecting and conserving marine life.

Mr Somo said that the ongoing dredging of the Indian Ocean in Lamu for the construction of Lamu port had destroyed mangrove forests, sea grass, and coral reefs which are fish and turtle nesting areas.

Lamu fishermen complain that dredging will kill their livelihood and residents are angry they will be forced off land they have lived on for centuries.

The projects could also overwhelm the popular tourist destination, where donkeys are still the main form of transport amid traditional Swahili coastal architecture.

Kenyan is spear heading a $25.5 billion (Sh2.6 trillion) project to link landlocked South Sudan and Ethiopia to the Indian Ocean port of Lamu by constructing a major highway, a railway and an oil pipeline.

“This has led to dwindling fish, has affected the cultural and socio-economic life of residents who solely depend on fishing for their livelihood,” Mr Somo said.

A marine biologist was also among the witnesses in the petition against the Attorney General, the Kenya Ports Authority, National Environment Management Authority, among other government departments linked to the project.

“Mangroves protect reefs from strong waves and are home for various rare marine species,” Dr David Obura, a marine life expert said.