The words ‘Blue Economy’ became the talk of town last month thanks to the just concluded Sustainable Blue Economy Conference held in Nairobi that attracted dignitaries from all over the world.
The importance of the sector was clearly seen as various presidents and special envoys spoke passionately putting forward their views and ideas of how the Blue economy can be better utilized and managed.
The World Bank describes Blue Economy as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem. It’s about the sustainable use and conservation of the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and other water resources.
Compared to other developed countries all over the world that have access to such resources, Kenya has been left behind in terms of utilization and conservation of its waters. Think about Rotterdam city in Netherlands, Miami in the US or Barcelona in Spain? You would think these are capital cities in the respective countries but they are not.
A good example is Rotterdam. This is why. Rotterdam is the largest sea port in Europe and its strategic location has made it a vital organ in the economy of the Netherlands and the North-Western Europe as a whole. Rotterdam’s economy is mainly derived from shipping.
The city is committed in keeping its sea clean to an extent that rain water is usually collected via their green roof system, cleaned of leaves and dirt then utilised for the city’s water needs and excess released into the sea in clean condition.
Our Mombasa port is strategically located to serve not only Kenya but also its landlocked neighbours. However, it has not yet achieved its full potential looking at the massive opportunities that surrounds it. The town has been a major contributor to pollution in the Indian Ocean as for a long time raw sewage, domestic garbage and industrial wastes have found its way into the sea.
The challenges of insecurity and terrorism have also not been fully addressed which hampers tourism and trade activities along the Kenyan coast.
Kenya is also blessed with great lakes that were formed as a result of volcanic activities in the Rift Valley. Lake Turkana is the largest desert lake in the world and the fourth largest lake in Africa. Tana river is one of the many major rivers in the country and it stretches over 600 miles.
These great water resources in the country are however under threat due to human activities around them such as excessive pollution and deforestation. Some of the resources that have been pointed out as being endangered by environmentalists recently are the Mara River and Lake Turkana.
The government needs to intervene as a matter of urgency and put measures that will save our water resources for the benefit of the current and future generations.
Establishment of the Kenya Maritime Authority and other state departments that focuses on the sector, expansion of the Mombasa Port and the ongoing LAPSSET project are steps in the right direction for the Blue Economy. We are also hoping that the billions pledged by the Government and donors to implement outcomes of the Blue Economy Conference will be felt soon.
Renson Kitur, Nairobi.