In a stunning win for communities in Lamu, Kenya, the government has been ordered to pay more than $17 million USD to 4,600 fishermen for damages caused by an enormous infrastructure project: the Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET).
The High Court “found that if the LAPSSET Project is implemented in the manner projected now, it runs the risk of irreversibly violating the various components of the right to culture of the Petitioners and other indigenous residents of Lamu County.”
Lawyers at the Katiba Institute brought the case on behalf of residents of Lamu. The judgment was read aloud in court on Monday, and we await its publication.
In a Summary of Findings and Orders issued by the court, the High Court declared that the project proponents “failed to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) before embarking on the individual components of the LAPSSET Project as they were duty-bound to do.”
The Court also declared that “project proponents of projects which are likely to have significant environmental, social, cultural and other impacts are required…to consider and assess external costs of the projects, policies, plans and programmes associated with proposed projects as part of the ESIA and SEA Processes.”
“This strong decision is based on common sense,” says Jennifer Gleason, ELAW Staff Attorney. “Before starting work on a massive project like LAPSSET, the government must identify economic, cultural, environmental, and human rights impacts of the project and work with communities to mitigate those impacts and protect unique resources.”
The Court remands the EIA License to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for reconsideration (although the court stops short of invalidating it during the review). Additionally, the Court finds violations of a right to information and the need for effective public participation.
Finally, the Court orders the government to “draw up a Management Plan to preserve Lamu Island as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
The Court requires project proponents to report back to the Court on progress implementing the judgment.
“This is a very rare order,” writes Waikwa Wanyoike from the Katiba Institute in a message to ELAW and Natural Justice. “Many thanks to all of you for the individual and institutional support you accorded this litigation. These could never have been done as well without you.”
ELAW Staff Attorneys and Scientists collaborated with the Katiba Institute, Natural Justice, and Save Lamu to ensure the port project does not devastate coastal communities, mangroves, coral reefs, and sea turtle habitat.
The massive port project is being built in Lamu, a UN World Heritage Site and Kenya’s first Swahili settlement. The 32-berth cargo and container port would service what would be East Africa’s first coal-fired power plant, and export oil and other natural resources from East Africa.
Last year, ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik and Ernie Niemi, an economist from Natural Resource Economics, Inc., traveled to Kenya and provided expert testimony at hearings at the Malindi High Court.
Ernie’s testimony focused on the need to study the external costs of the project, a key focus of the court’s decision.
ELAW has provided partners with critical support, including a comprehensive review of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA) for the first three berths of the port. ELAW also provided partners with strategic research on environmental issues as well as resources for community workshops to help residents understand what a deepwater port looks like when completed.
Congratulations Katiba Institute, Natural Justice, and Save Lamu!
For more information see:
Daily Nation, May 1, 2018
Lamu fishers win Lapsset case, to get Sh1.7bn from the Statel
Standard Digital, April 30, 2018
Government fined Sh1.7 billion for Lapsset lapses
For more information about ELAW’s work in Kenya and around the world, please contact:
ELAW Communications Director