Developers on the spot over erosion of ocean ecosystem

Even before the dust settles over investigations on grabbing of a huge chunk of land at Kibarani, Mombasa, environmentalists now want investors compelled to fund construction of a public park .

Acting chairperson National Lands Commission Abigael Mbagaya with her commissioners during the hearing of the Kibarani land inquiry at the Kenya School of Government on 22 August 2018. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

IN SUMMARY

  • With at least 30 companies that are alleged to have grabbed land at Kibarani, with some beacons erected in the ocean, the developments have had serious environmental and economic consequences.
  • The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), says it has been forced to dredge the harbour two times in a year due to excess siltation caused by lack of proper movement of water along the creek, costing it over Sh7 billion annually.

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Even before the dust settles over investigations on grabbing of a huge chunk of land at Kibarani, Mombasa, environmentalists now want investors compelled to fund construction of a public park in what they are calling “environmental justice” and restitutive development”.

With at least 30 companies that are alleged to have grabbed land at Kibarani, with some beacons erected in the ocean, the developments have had serious environmental and economic consequences. While the land was sold to third parties, some companies have however surrendered the title deeds due to pressure.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), says it has been forced to dredge the harbour two times in a year due to excess siltation caused by lack of proper movement of water along the creek, costing it over Sh7 billion annually.

Reclamation of land has resulted to changing of the tides, with water blocking one side of the port , requiring dredging, according to KPA.

Environmental experts say due to reclamation of part of the ocean, water cannot flow freely along Makupa, Tudor and Port Reitz creeks and in the event of huge ocean currents such as the tsunami, this would cause massive flooding at the Mombasa port, halting operations at the East Africa’s largest port.

There have also been fears globally that due to these developments, Mombasa might cease to be an island, with even more serious consequences on the economy of the county that relies mainly on tourism related activities.

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Bigship, a community -based organization in Mombasa says the companies that have exploited resources at Kibarani should be responsible for construction of the proposed park.

The organisation made presentations and site visits with the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources as part of the team’s investigations into grabbing of the land.

Over the years, dumping of garbage at the site has gone on unabated, with most of the waste getting into the ocean, polluting marine ecosystem in the creek. Investors have also hived off parcels of public land and converted them to private property with approvals from government officials.

Some of the companies that have heavily invested at Kibarani are Multiple ICD, Makupa Transit Shade, Civicon and Mitchell Cotts, all of which operate logistics and Container Freight Station (CFS) businesses.

Bigship managing director Bosco Juma, said those who have irresponsibly exploited the marine ecosystem should be made to pay.

“Makupa creek has experienced degradation caused by business developments and the negative environmental practices done by the developers and the county government which calls for commitment towards mitigating the environmental injustices through a restitutive development framework,” he said.

A survey the organisation conducted last year found that at least 18.3 acres of mangroves was destroyed, degrading the ecosystem.

“The destruction came about after developers failed to implement the special user license conditions and the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) recommendations as is required by law, leading to distraction of the entire ecosystem,” said the survey.

“Further destruction of the mangrove forests reduces the carbon sinks that help in climate change mitigation. In other words, the public both present and future generations fundamental rights to clean and healthy environment is infringed,” it added.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has also started expansion of the Mombasa-Jomvu road into a dual carriage at a cost of Sh6.5 billion. This will also see the cause-way removed and a bridge constructed.

The cause-way, which dissects Tudor Creek to the east and Port Reitz creek to the west, was built in 1920s with environmental surveys showing it has had a negative impact on marine life at both creeks. The structure is one of three road links between the Island and the mainland – the other two being Nyali bridge and Kepevu cause way at the KPA headquarters.

The Kibarani dumpsite has worsened the situation as toxic waste including heavy metals seep into the ocean, resulting to drying up of mangrove trees and death of fish.

“There have been environmental concerns with the causeway and part of the ocean it cuts off is virtually dead. The bridge will be a little longer than the structure which is 120 metres,” KeNHA coast regional manager Jared Makori said in a telephone interview.

He said while the bridge would also accommodate the old railway line, KeNHA was in talks with the Kenya Railways on how to incorporate the standard gauge railway in the infrastructure.

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