CoastSnap User meeting and workshop in Toulouse (France)


On18th June 2019 the first CoastSnap User meeting took place in Toulouse (France) under the umbrella of Boot Camp Coastal Imaging 2019, organised by Dr Mitch Harley from the University of New South Wales, Australia. This was the first time the CoastSnap site owners have gathered together to discuss best practice, to share ideas and to learn key project tools. Starting in Australia, CoastSnap has been spreading around the world since 2017 with current sites in the UK, France, Brazil, Portugal, Spain and others. CoastSnap is a citizen science project in which participants take pictures of a beach from a particular viewpoint using a fixed metal stand. The stand holds the smartphones and ensures pictures are always taken from the same position. These pictures are later shared with the project team using social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) or email, and users are instructed to indicate the date and time the picture was taken. This simple idea allows the project team to build, over time, a database of images to understand shoreline behaviour, to analyse erosion, recovery cycles and storm impacts.

During the meeting, all users presented the first results and analysis for their site, as well as any difficulties experienced. I was there to present CoastSnap Mozambique, one of the 19 Rising from the Depths network funded projects. CoastSnap Mozambique will be the first site in Africa, which really excited the CoastSnap team, as this could bring new ways to obtain records in countries with a severe shortage of coastal data. Although it was not possible to present any outputs yet, as the CoastSnap stations will be installed in Mozambique later this month, I was really happy to present the relevance of a citizen science project in Mozambique, not only to record data in shoreline dynamics, but also to understand local perceptions of natural and cultural heritage.

I noticed that there was something missing in all of the presentations, and that was the level of involvement of the local community. From the viewpoint of CoastSnap Mozambique, this is one of the strongest aspects. It is for this reason that in parallel to the beach surveys and the installation of the CoastSnap station (the metal frame and information boards) we will be running workshops to present the project and to understand coastal communities’ views on the project. We will consult with them, and other potential uses, over the pictures collected during the project to tackle potential concerns and conflicts which could later be built into coastal management plans. We will design activities, alongside educators, which will be carried out in schools to integrate the project outputs within sociology, the arts and science, and this will cover aspects of coastal identity and cultural and ecosystem values.

During my time in Toulouse, I learned the most technical aspects of the project, involving the analysis of coastal imaging and shoreline change using MATLAB. The tool will enable the team to analyse the series of images shared by our users, allowing us to view the evolution of the coastline over time. I will be sharing this newly acquired knowledge with my co-Investigators based in Mozambique, and these skills will then be passed on to project students within their universities, so the project can become self-sustaining after the formal project end date.

Next week, Dr Luciana Esteves (BU) and I will be in Mozambique to join the rest of the team, Dr Jaime Palalane from Eduardo Mondlane University and Dr Pedrito Cambrao from Lurio University to set up the four CoastSnap Stations and to run community workshops at each location (see table below) to encourage participation and ownership of the project and to obtain the views and knowledge of the local population.

Location Date Activity
Ilha de Moçambique Tue 30th July Beach survey and CoastSnap Installation
Wed 31st July Workshop
Ponta do Ouro (Maputo) Thu 1st Aug Beach survey and CoastSnap Installation
Fri 2nd Aug Workshop  (location: Kaya-Kweru Resort)
Tofo beach (Inhambane) Mon 5th Aug Beach survey and CoastSnap Installation
Tue 6th Aug Workshop (location: Escola Superior de Hotelaria e Turismo de Inhambane)

Discussing (Marine) Cultural Heritage at a Development Studies Conference

by Rosalie Hans

DSA Blog Post

The annual Development Studies Association (DSA) conference took place in Milton Keynes this year from 19 to 21 June and as a novice to a conference in this discipline I was excited to find out how it would differ from the heritage and museum studies gatherings I’m used to (spoiler alert, it wasn’t so different). However, the fact that, as a heritage professional, it was the first time going to a conference in development studies surely indicates the need for merging these fields more often to discuss the multiple challenges of maritime heritage and development that Rising from the Depths also addresses.

The panel that brought me to Milton Keynes was called ‘History and Development: Practicing the Past in Pursuit of ‘Progress’’ and fell squarely into the cultural heritage and sustainable development theme that has become increasingly topical over the past few years. Conveners Charlotte Cross and John Giblin represented both sides of the discussion respectively as a Lecturer in International Development at the Open University and as Keeper of World Cultures at the National Museums of Scotland and introduced the topic from their areas of expertise. Dr John Giblin started with the uses of post-conflict heritage in northern Uganda and the meanings of memory while Dr Charlotte Cross talked about the invocation of tradition by local vigilante groups in Tanzania. Then Dr Ioanna Katapidi, of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, presented on an international research project that looked at how and what UNESCO world heritage sites can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). Using case studies from Jordan and China, she highlighted some of the challenges of translating the potential of world heritage sites into practical action contributing towards the SDG’s. Following this, Dr Mark Lamont, who is currently a co-investigator on a RftD-funded project in Mida Creek, Kenya, raised some useful questions on the expected value derived from cultural heritage projects in a development environment, particularly related to GCRF funding in the UK. His point on whether the visibility afforded through digital humanities technologies, such as those promoted by RftD, really put the control over scholarship and knowledge in the hands of UK academia is especially relevant for Rising from the Depths.

In the afternoon, I presented on ‘the promise of the museum’, using RftD research in Mozambique as one of my case studies. The Museu das Pescas, or Fisheries Museum, in Maputo provides an excellent example of a museum that was constructed as part of a larger development project to add a cultural component to an otherwise economically focused programme. My argument that there is a danger of reducing museums (and cultural heritage in general) to an ill-defined resource that does not live up to its expectations resonated well with the overall theme of the panel. I proposed that to live up to their promise, the expectations of museum benefits should be changed to aims that they can deliver, such as social and cultural visibility, political recognition and promotion of local cultural appreciation. After this, we stayed in east Africa with Dr Lotte Hughes presenting her research on alternative rites of passage (ARP) that aim to replace FGM practices in Kenya. These ceremonies include a range of activities drawn from different sources of inspiration such as Christian religion and international development discourse leading to hybridised cultural performances. A presentation recorded in Zimbabwe by Kemist Shumba informed us on a research plan for looking at the use of traditional games and song in promoting health and well-being. His presence via Skype was greatly appreciated but also a stark reminder of the difficulty of African academics and professionals to receive visas for the UK which affected three other papers scheduled for this panel. It was a shame that these presenters could not share their research with those able to attend. Rounding off the panel for the day was Camila dos Santos who presented on Brazil’s development engagement with Angola and the ‘renegotiation of its position to modernity’ by engaging with Brazil’s and Angola’s shared (but not the same) colonial pasts. The article she wrote with Maira S. Gomes on this multifaceted topic came out in 2019 and can be found here: Last but not least, Dr Astrid Jamar shared some pictures which give an impression of the panel on Twitter which can be found here:

During the panel I felt ‘like a fish in water’ (excuse the Dutchism) among colleagues concerned with the same challenges surrounding heritage and development, but the keynotes and other panels of the conference were extremely interesting and inspiring as well. It was a privilege to attend the keynote by Professor Mahmood Mamdani who gave a broad overview of the history of the structures of power that underpin the nation-state, colonial ideology and the prosecution of minorities. A second, and equally inspiring, keynote was delivered by Dr Robtel Neajai Pailey, entitled ‘De-Centering the ‘White Gaze’ of Development’ which was an important call to address race as the elephant in the room in development studies. She combined critical race theory and critical development studies in order to ‘mainstream race, like gender and class, as the way forward’ because as she argued powerfully ‘to oppose racism one must notice race’. I would urge any heritage specialists working in development contexts to explore development theories, to attend conferences such as these and to inform themselves on key themes current in development studies. Looking at development through a (marine) cultural heritage lens can offer new perspectives on thinking about how past-making (heritage) influences future-making (development) (see Basu & Modest’s introduction to their edited volume ‘Museums, Heritage and Development, 2015). Nevertheless, development studies also has a lot to offer to heritage studies when it comes to critically appraising development contexts and thinking through the social, economic, cultural and environmental implications of development interventions. This conference was an enriching experience and just like Rising from the Depths, the panel was a step towards bringing different disciplines together to think about the uses and relevance of the past for creating sustainable futures. The edited volume that is planned as an outcome of this panel will hopefully contribute to furthering the dialogue on cultural heritage and sustainable development as well.

The controversy of the Lamu Coal Power Station, Kenya

by Wycliffe Omondi

lamu coal protest

The scramble for Africa’s abundant, unexploited minerals and natural resources has of late invited a new scramble by powers from within and without the continent. These new trends, especially along the coast of East Africa, are closely linked with oil and gas prospecting industries, major seaports’ and road network constructions which are stipulated to bring development to East Africa and Kenya in particular. However, more often such development projects may also be potential threats to the rich marine cultural heritage if not well planned.

Ever since I started working in the heritage sector I have always been fascinated by the antagonistic relationships between cultural heritage conservation and development. Coincidentally, I am currently a PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham where my research focuses on the critical examination and analysis of cultural heritage conservation as a driver for local community sustainable development with specific reference sites along the Kenya coast.

One area that has of late attracted major infrastructural development in Kenya is Lamu archipelago located on the northern coast of Kenya. The area has been earmarked as the convergence point for a US$29.2 billion Lapsset (Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport) Corridor program by the Government of Kenya (GoK). The archipelago is a system of six inhabited islands that are closely interconnected not only with the Islands but also with the surrounding environment including the mainland, in terms of fishing grounds, culture, family ties, mangrove forests and farmlands.

The Lapsset program has several components including the development of a seaport with 32 deep sea berths at Manda Bay (three berths are currently under construction), a standard gauge railway line to Juba and Addis Ababa, a road network, oil pipelines to and from South Sudan and Ethiopia, an oil refinery, three international airports and three resort cities at Lamu, Isiolo and Lake Turkana shores corridor. This program is part of the Government of Kenya’s national development strategy Vision 2030 economic pillar which aims at transforming Kenya into an industrialized middle income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a “clean and secure environment.”

Controversially, a coal power plant, Lamu Coal Power Station (LCPS), is to be developed in order to operate as part of Lapsset. Alongside the development of Lamu Port, resorts and the oil pipelines this power station is envisaged as one of the key catalysts in the development of Lamu. It must be built to provide electricity to make the development and subsequent habitation possible.

lamu coal

The proposed LCPS is located on the mainland near Lamu Island’s Old Town – a Unesco World Heritage site. The Old Town is considered one of the oldest and best preserved living Swahili towns whose golden age is believed to have been the period between 17th century and 19th century under Omani control. Inscription of Lamu Old Town into Unesco’s World Heritage List in 2001 was due to its architecture and urban structures that reveal the interaction of cultural influences of Africa, Asia and Europe over centuries to produce a distinctive Swahili culture. In addition it is considered a significant centre for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures. A traditional function it has retained for centuries up to date.


Due to the fragile nature of Lamu’s environment and culture, concerns were raised by local community members and NGOs’ such as Save Lamu, Natural Justice and Katiba Institute on the potential irreversible changes on the delicate natural environment and rapid disruption of the towns cultural traditions which forms an integral part of Lamu identity.

Despite local opposition to the coal power plant, the Government of Kenya awarded Amu Power Company (APC) the development rights in September 2014 (deal valued at approximately US$2 billion). APC is a consortium of Centum Investments Company Limited (a Kenyan private equity firm), Gulf Energy (a Kenyan energy generating company) and Sichuan Electric Power Design and Consulting Company Limited (SEDC) which is a subsidiary of Power Construction Corporation of China (Power China). Subsequently in mid- 2017, a 25 year Power purchase agreement between Lamu Coal Power Station with the investor Amu power, was singed in China witnessed by the President of Kenya, with guarantee from African Development Bank, even though the project is a private investment. “The President’s presence at the signing was likely arranged by the promoters of the project to shore up support for it,” according to David Ndii (2017), a Kenyan Daily Nation Newspaper columnist. However, the construction has repeatedly been halted due to opposition by environmentalists and human rights groups, for the plant will lead to air pollution, destruction of mangroves and breeding grounds for endangered species of marine turtles, fish and other marine life. The latest suspension of the project is a decision made in 2018 by a Kenyan court, sending the dispute back to National Environment Tribunal.

Obviously Kenya does not need to buy wind or solar along the coast of Kenya.  According to World Economic Forum Report 2018, wind has no clean-up costs either. It stands to reason then, that the wind plant beats coal hands down on cost and efficiency. For the case of LCPS, coal will have to be purchased and ferried all the way from South Africa to Lamu, hence incurring additional cost.

Last week, more intrigue emerged about the coal plant, after Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a US based philanthropic research and analyses organization that focuses on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment, revealed in its report entitled, The Proposed Lamu Coal Plant: The Wrong Choice for Kenya,’ argues that even if the plant never generates any power Kenya will still have to pay heavily for generated electricity.  “That the Coal project true costs during the years 2024 through 2037 could average as high as US$22 to US$75  per KWh.” That is three to 10 times the company’s initial 2014 projection. IEEFA, also admits that the planned 981MW Lamu coal plant is outright a poor investment—“except for the few companies backing the proposal and the Chinese firm contracted to build it.”  Therefore “Kenya should cancel the project.”

Kenya has also pledged in several international platforms to move the country to 100% renewable energy – the coal plant is surely the antithesis of this aim.

On the 24th June the National Environment Tribunal (NET)  in Nairobi revoked a permit issued for the contentious project. They cancelled an environmental impact assessment licence for the Lamu coal project, ruling that “the circumstances under which it was issued were flawed.”

However, will this judgement stand?

Will there be an appeal?

This happened in a previous court case between Lapsset and Lamu community members in April 2018  where despite the fact that the High Court of Kenya declared that the construction of the Lamu Port failed basic constitutional and legal requirements (including violations of legal procedure on public participation, the right to information, the right to a clean and healthy environment and right to culture) and the government should pay US $17Million in compensation to 4,600 fishermen in Lamu County,  the Kenya Ports Authority nonetheless filed a Notice of Appeal on the grounds that, “the judges of the lower court gave orders which had not been pleaded” and successfully obtained orders from the Court of Appeal suspending the implementation of the judgment. Consequently, despite the judgment, the Lamu Port construction continues unaffected by the decision, dashing petitioners’ expectations of seeing the project proponents take tangible steps to implement the court’s judgment. Equally the fishermen are still waiting for their compensation.

What is the way forward for Lamu community members, if the judgement is upheld or otherwise? Are the project planners sensitive to heritage? Do they understand that heritage is intertwined with a people’s identity, worldview and their livelihoods?

Marine Cultural Heritage in Northern Mozambique

By Colin Breen

At the end of April I again travelled to Mozambique, in support of a number of forthcoming Rising from the Depths projects. The particular focus of the visit was the spectacular world heritage site of Ilha de la Mozambique, a small island off the coast that served as a major trading centre in the Western Indian Ocean. It became the centre for Portuguese trading activities in this region, and was strongly linked with the slave trade. The island contains a rich array of historic buildings including forts and churches, but also has an extraordinary shipwreck resource, with dozens of late and post medieval wreck sites known. Unfortunately, many of these were subject to pillaging during the 1990s and 2000s, as commercial treasure hunters ravaged what is probably the most important collection of historic wreck sites anywhere in the world. Local archaeologists, under the direction of Ricardo Duarte, and supported by the community, have set up a research centre in the ancient fortress on the island, supported by US Ambassador Funds, to conduct new and exciting work on this underwater resource. The Rising from the Depths network has funded a project led jointly by Duarte and Wes Forsythe at Ulster University, Marine Cultural Heritage in Northern Mozambique, which aims to further extend this work through an integrated marine survey examining past and present sea-level and environmental change. This will be an immersive project, engaging with communities across the island, and adjacent coastal areas, to develop more robust understandings of environmental change in the area, and to further develop community resilience and adaptation strategies in light of these changes.

Ilha de Mozambique

Our visit was particularly opportune as we arrived at the same time as Cyclone Kenneth hit the northern coast of the country. This was the second major storm event to hit this coast this year, and its intensity, duration and associated level of flooding has been linked to climate change by meteorologists. While the damage to the Ilha and nearby mainland was limited to a degree of flooding, there was significant loss of life and infrastructural damage further north. Its impact highlighted the contribution our projects will make towards strengthening communities, and understanding the myriad of challenges they face. Time and time again local people expressed their anger to us about how the Global North bears primary responsibility for these changes, given Mozambique’s perceived limited contribution to global emissions. There was also a high degree of interest shown in the new exploration activities taking place off the coast, but also concern at the increasing levels of violence present in this area that has been variously labelled as terrorism, radicalism or banditry.

The Ilha has been subject to decades of interest from a heritage and conservation perspective. Yet, the island’s incredible heritage resource still faces significant pressures from environmental and societal activities. Challenges remain around promoting heritage values, and questions around who decides what these values are. More specifically, I was asked again and again, how heritage, and the types of projects we are involved in, will work towards poverty alleviation. That is one of the key challenges we have set up for ourselves, and one that we will be working hard to achieve over the coming years.


SDGsMarine heritage and sustainable development

By Jon Henderson

I’m just back from the Society for American Archaeology’s (SAA) 84th Annual Meeting in Albuquerque where I took part in the HumAnE Archaeology Session organised by Carly Ameen and Naomi Sykes from the University of Exeter. Through a series of papers the session looked at using combined human-animal-environmental (HumAnE) data and how that can be analysed using a variety of arts and science-based techniques to unpick and model long-term bio-cultural dynamics.

Archaeology has always been interdisciplinary but I think we are at an exciting point with sessions like this stressing how long-term archaeological data, bio-cultural data and deep time data can inform solutions to the current global problems facing humanity. Archaeologists are uniquely placed to contribute a deep-time perspective on contemporary humanitarian issues, like those identified in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which are not exclusively modern phenomenon. Deep-time archaeological data can be collated, analysed and presented to help inform solutions to modern global challenges such as the effects of intensive food production, urbanisation, globalisation, climate change, disease transmission and inter-cultural conflict.

Using data from Rising from the Depths, my paper examined the legacy of the oceans and how data from past marine exploitation can help inform the sustainable development agenda. SDG14 Life Below Water recognises the economic and social benefits that sustainable use of marine resources can provide, including enhanced food security, sustainable energy generation, and poverty eradication through marine orientated livelihood opportunities. Providing deep-time data over millennia, the marine archaeological resource has more to offer than solutions based on tourism. For example, coastal management strategies and conservation projects rely on short-term baseline data that, at best, cover little more than a century. As a result, projects and strategies put into place are limited, and do not fully reflect ecosystem dynamics or the relative resilience of different species to the effects of both human activities and changes driven by long term climatic and other environmental factors.

Next month I’m off to the 1st Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Global Planning Meeting for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in Copenhagen to make the case for considering marine heritage data in formulating sustainable solutions to the problems facing our oceans. While environmental sciences and ecological approaches have had a major role in the development of solutions, the potential role of marine cultural heritage as a usable resource and the long-term cultural importance of the marine environment are still not being properly considered. It is my belief that a marine cultural heritage outlook (prioritising human interaction with the sea in all its diversity) could provide the conceptual framework that unites, stimulates and informs interdisciplinary responses to the challenges set out in SDG 14. Wish me luck!