Residents of Shimoni in Kwale County where construction of a new fishing port is expected to start next month want the government to address concerns on dredging activities and loss of marine environment to sustain their livelihoods.
The government will pump Sh2.6 billion in the first phase of the project and the Kwale county government has already transferred a title deed to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) for the land.
Though the residents say the port will boost the fishing industry and provide employment opportunities, they fear fishing, seaweed farming, ecotourism and generally marine life they depend on to earn a living will be affected.
They also want to be compensated for their resources invested in conserving the ocean. “We know that there is going to be a lot of dredging and movement on this part of the Ocean and that is going to affect our fishing,” said Mkonde Vuya, a fisherman.
The member of Wasini Beach Management Unit (BMU) has been fishing in the area for over 10 years.
He added that if this is affected, he will barely have an opportunity to be employed in the port since he has no qualification papers or skills, apart from fishing.
Residents also say increased activities will affect their ecotourism practices since a number of them in Mkwiro, Shimoni, Kibuyuni and Wasini carry out coral reef restoration. Wasini BMU vice-chairperson Mohammed Mohammed said members of beach management units who have been involved in conservation should be compensated.
He explained that the residents had set aside a Community Conservation Area (CCA) mapped for further developments.
They currently do not allow fishing in that section.
“We have invested a lot of resources in this. It amounts to a lot of money. This is going to affect us because of not only sound pollution but also sedimentation which will cover and affect fish breeding areas,” he said.
At the same time, tour operators have said that the movement and sound pollution expected will force the migration of unique species of fish that act as a tourist attraction.
The Shimoni Slave Caves, a heritage site is located in Shimoni gazetted in 1992 as a national monument.
Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Reserve, a Marine Protected Area, is accessed through Shimoni Channel, where residents take international and local tourists on boat safaris.
It also hosts Dolphins and humpback whales which are a great tourist attraction and hence support livelihoods.
The port’s first phase will cost Sh2.6 billion and will include the construction of a 100-meter jetty, cold storage facility and other landmark premises.
The second phase is a development of a fully-fledged industrial port attracting foreign vessels.
According to Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya, the project will be a major boost for the fishing industry which has been underperforming because of an over-reliance on traditional fishing methods.
“We are proud of the project and we will throw support behind it. The county has transferred the land and we hope the construction starts soon,” he said.
According to a 2020 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report by Kenya Ports Authority, during construction, potential dredging and dumping activities will negatively impact marine ecosystems through water degradation, impact on marine population and oil spills that may lead to complete loss of marine habitats.
The report however advised that to curb this, the dredging should be done during high tides 'to reduce turbidity in adjacent environments' and water quality monitoring to be conducted ' to ensure critical limits for survival and habitats are not exceeded'.
The conclusion of the report states that even though the port will have both positive and negative impacts, there should be mitigation measures and monitoring plans to address the negative impacts.