Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fishermen and environmentalists against the proposed Lamu Port.

By Charles Ogallo.

Kenyan environmental activists seem to be dissatisfied with how the Kenya Government is planning to undertake proposed second port in Lamu.

Many of them have allayed fear over massive destruction of marine ecosystem when and after the Port is completed.

Led by Rashid Athman, a local environmentalist, a number of them said the Government needs to conduct a thorough environmental impact assessment study on the proposed project and the final report made public before any work begins.

Others among them Fishermne also argued that pollutions from the port which many experts believe will be of great economic benefits to local communities and Kenya in general may on the other hand endanger the marine environment."For years m Lamu people have depended on this Ocean for fishing, how sure are they that when this port comes our facing activities will not be interrupted? we need to be told." said Ali Juma Mondhar , a long time fisherman.

Rashid also claimed that fishing activities in the region will be affected once a wide fishing area in the region is put out of bound to many local fishermen who are believed to have less capacity to explore deep water fishing.

However, the Kenya Ports Authority which is heading the project disagreed with the environmentalists arguments.

The Authority’s chief executive officer James Mulewa emphasized the importance of the second commercial seaport which he said was being planned for urgent implementation.

Mr Mulewa said the port is vital for the economic development of the entire Coast region and will help open up Kenya for more business activities with neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Southern Sudan

"Development of the new Lamu Port will be a major breakthrough both to the Lamu People and this entire Coast region ."

He promised that all plans will been put in place to ensure all environmental requirements are met especially through the Kenya Ports Authority’s commitment to engage all stakeholders among them local fishermen in matters of port development.

But environmentalists see more environmental dangers from the project. They see destruction of mangroves and thus reduction of number of fishing grounds. They see oil pollution becoming a common disaster in the area.

Mr Rashid openly criticized pioneers of the project accusing them of an attempt to divert the attention of local communities from dangers involved in the proposed project.

"We can not allow this project whatsoever how important it will be without being told dangers our children may be facing in future".said Rashid

The proposed Lamu Port will be implemented at a cost of US $ 16 billion, funds from the Qatar Government.

According to the Kenya Ports Authority report, the port will be able to handle larger vessels due to its expansive depth compared to Mombasa Port.

The report says more infrastructural activities will follow once the project is complete , among them construction of railway lines from the proposed port to Addis Ababa ,Ethiopia and another one to Southern Sudan.

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