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Report says dredging harmful to marine life, coastal economy

By Patrick Wachira
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019
Protesters aboard a boat demonstrate against dredging along the Coast beaches. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Sand harvesting and dumping of dredged materials by the Kenya Ports Authority at Shelly Beach, Mombasa, has run into headwinds.

The Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers says in a report launched recently that a scientific study it commissioned has established far-reaching economic and social problems stemming from the dredging that is being undertaken to expand the Port of Mombasa under the Mombasa Port Development Project.

It is estimated that the dumping of dredged materials takes place within four kilometres offshore, at the 30-50m reef slopes on the South Coast of Kenya at Waa and Tiwi in Kwale.

Phase one of the project, which will see construction of new container terminal in three phases, was completed in 2016.

It is estimated that the three remaining phases will create an additional port capacity of 1.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per annum.

The sand is harvested through application of pressure and suction, which loosens the sand under sea. It is then sucked into a ship brought in for just this purpose.

KPA says it is harvesting the sand from the sea bed because it is a free resource. 

But now, some fish species such as lobsters, octopus, row cord fish and sardines have gone missing.  Disappearance of the species is attributed to the destruction of corals, which provide breeding habitat.

A section of Diani beach.  PD/COURTESY

Fisherfolk feel that the sand harvesting is to blame as it destroys lobster and octopus eggs during the harvesting process.

Low business 

In Timbwani, Shelly beach, lobster species were observed to have changed colour as a result of exposure to dumped dredged materials.

Fish food sellers (mama karanga) also reported low business due to lack of fish supplied by traders, from selling 30kg by six sellers to six kilos per day. This has led to reduced income, from Sh5,000 to Sh500 per week.

Due to low supply of fish, the sellers often end up not selling any fish and instead prefer to utilise it as food for their families, the report says.

The tourism Industry is also affected, as there has been significant interference with deep sea diving and snorkeling sites as a result of spread of rocks sediments and sand dust particles resulting in the water around the sites appearing coloured.

In Shelly Beach, dead fish, debris and dredged waste were sometimes observed to have been swept off-shore, locals said.

The activities had contributed to erosion of beach value and its aesthetics, the prime movers of beach tourism products that generate millions of shillings in foreign exchange.

Loss of economic livelihood in fishing, tourism and dependent industries had resulted in children especially in secondary schools and post-secondary learning institutions being discontinued from school due to lack of fees.

Further, rising cases of school dropout have, in turn, contributed to high poverty levels, low literacy levels and employability potential, especially among the youth and minors.

It was also found that inability to feed households and dependents among players in the fishing sector contributed to food insecurity and poor nutrition.

Rising cases of children dropping out of school, financial distress and separation and divorces in many families resulted in teenage pregnancies, child prostitution, and child marriages among school-going girls, the report notes.

There has been notable increase in cases related to drug use, crime and violence due to financial or economic hardships.

Locals opine that if sand harvesting in Diani continues throughout all the remaining phases, Diani Beach value and aesthetics will completely be eroded and destroyed, resulting in the collapse of the tourism sector through closure of businesses The local economy will, in turn, face sudden doom and gloom.

Find alternative sites 

“The government has committed itself to pursue blue economy strategies... Fishing and tourism industries are flagship projects in the blue economy strategy. 

“Consequently, sand harvesting in Diani and dumping of dredged materials pose a threat to realisation of the national blue economy strategy,” says the report.

Residents want KPA to find alternative sites to harvest sand for the remainder of its project.

They also want National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to order an independent social and environment impact assessment to be conducted in Shelly and Diani beaches in respect of sand harvesting and dumping of dredged materials.

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