Lamu cultural sites set to get a lifeline - Daily Nation

Lamu cultural sites set to get a lifeline

Thursday October 1 2009

By MATHIAS RINGA

An international organisation will fund the rehabilitation of dilapidated buildings in Lamu to restore its pride.

The Organisation of World Heritage Cities has also pledged to provide funds for the construction of a drainage system and pavements on the island.

Former Lamu county council chairman Hassan Albeity said the organisation was touched by the problems facing the historical island after he presented a paper at a global world heritage conference in Equador last month.

“Lamu is faced with numerous problems which include worn-out buildings, sewerage and drainage systems, coupled with massive purchase of old houses by foreigners who include Hollywood stars.

“But I am glad that a world organisation has promised to fund the rehabilitation of properties in the heritage site to save the island from ruin,” he said on Thursday.

The councillor echoed the sentiments by National Museums of Kenya (NMK) director-general Idle Farah that Lamu was in danger of losing its world heritage glory owing to massive purchase of historical buildings by wealthy foreigners.

He, however, said the major challenge could be overcome if the islanders resorted to leasing their houses for periods of between five and 20 years instead of selling them to foreigners.

"I think leasing of the houses could stem the problem of loss of the ancient buildings to foreigners, which has reached alarming levels,” Mr Albeity said.

Although the council has over the years been urging the residents not to sell their buildings they continued to do so due to abject poverty.

Mr Albeity urged NMK to involve the locals in its activities so that they could see the importance of conserving their properties. He said the council was sourcing funds to compensate people who have encroached on sand dunes, which are the only source of fresh water on the island.

Mr Farah said the purchase of buildings by foreigners had put Lamu’s world heritage status in danger.

The NMK boss noted that the island would lose its rich historical culture and traditions if foreigners continued to take over properties.