Why the Save Lamu Coalition is Correct to Challenge the Construction of the Lamu Port
Without a doubt, construction of the Lamu port megaproject and LAPPSET corridor could be a major
catalyst for change and economic growth in Kenya, as proposed in Vision 2030. The decision by the
Save Lamu coalition to file a legal petition to temporarily suspend construction of the Lamu port
indicates that it wants to ensure that problems with the port megaproject are addressed before
construction begins in earnest. This is not only appropriate, but necessary.
With the total cost of the LAPSSET corridor estimated at over a quarter of Kenya's GDP, getting the
fundamentals right makes all the difference. Globally, a growing number of megaprojects have strikingly
poor records in terms of economic performance and public support. This is true both within developed
and developing countries. Indeed feasibility costs are usually significantly underestimated and
mismanagement can lead to a net-loss for an economy. The ultimate risk is that the LAPSSET project
could end up bankrupting Kenya.
Because of its strategic economic importance, construction of the Lamu port megaproject and
LAPPSET corridor and its impacts (economic, environmental and social) must be highly scrutinized by
civil society, as well as internally by the government and the media. Development plans must be
transparent, detailed and provide for local input of affected communities.
There are calls for speeding up the construction of the Lamu port because of the current oil situation in
South Sudan. But the recent history of the project suggests that speeding up the process will lead to
increased corruption and failed projects with extreme costs to the Kenyan economy.
Members of Parliament and the media rightly criticized the contract and payment to Japan Port
Consultants for the feasibility study, the most expensive feasibility study in the history of Kenya.
However, because of the lack of initial transparency, the criticism came after payment and the study had
been completed. Trying to fix problems after the fact won't help ensure the viability of the Lamu port
megaproject and LAPSSET Corridor.
Lack of consultation with the Lamu communities has resulted in a growing movement of opposition to
the port megaproject (and further clamoring from the Pwani si Kenya movement). Meanwhile, local elites
incite tribal clashes in Isiolo over land for the proposed resort city. Gathering public support is essential
for the projects to move forward.
The government has also failed to follow the rule of law by beginning construction of the Lamu port
before the performance of an environmental impact assessment (EIA). This action undermines the
legality of the project. It also goes against the spirit of sustainable development (efficiency, equity and
environment) that is an essential component of creating long-term employment and economic growth.
The challenges of completing a megaproject are not small. There is a lot that could go wrong. Civil
Society and the media must continue to challenge the government to ensure that it doesn't. Continue to
demand: show us the detailed plan.
Copyright, 2013 michaeljstarks.com