Alarm as mangrove forests at the Kenyan Coast rapidly disappear


A man stands in the middle of a destroyed section of mangrove in Lamu. AFP PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA

Mombasa is becoming hotter due to the depletion of mangrove forests, a vital ally in the fight against climate change, with the situation along the Kenyan coast projected to get worse with time.

A recent study carried out at Tudor Creek - the water body separating Mombasa Island from the mainland - shows that more than 80 per cent of mangroves along the Indian Ocean coast in the area have been wiped out.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) assistant director of wetlands and marine conservation, Dr Mohamed Omar, says urgent intervention is required to conserve the disappearing forests.

“From the 1960s, the mangrove cover at the creek to date has diminished by 80 per cent if not more. This is a very serious situation because we foresee a situation without mangroves in Mombasa especially within Tudor Creek,” warned Dr Omar at the launch of the National Mangrove Ecosystem Management Plan in Mombasa Monday.

Mangrove forests are key to regulating climate at the coast since they capture carbon dioxide from the environment at a rate that's five times more efficient than other forests.

Apart from their central role in fighting climate change, they also help support tourism and fishing sectors as they play host to a variety of fish and wildlife species.

“We are losing the battle against climate change due to the status of the mangroves...that is why Mombasa is getting hotter,” he noted.

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Dr Omar is urging the public and environmental stakeholders to replant the mangroves, prevent erosion at the creek and control harvesting of the forests.

He said Tudor Creek is being exposed to pollution since Mombasa County dumps untreated raw sewerage into the ocean.

“All our raw sewerage is flowing in into the creek. There is over exploitation of mangrove forest as a result the fisheries industry is suffering. You go to Mikindani, Old Town the sewerage is all over the beach you can’t even walk,” he said.

“When you are at the English Point Marina you see a nice environment but when you cross over to Old Town and walk along the beach, it is pathetic,” he added.

The scientist is also blaming residents for threats facing the eco-system saying locals over-harvest mangrove trees for charcoal burning.

“There is a lot of demand for firewood in Mombasa and the source is Tudor creek. Which means if we lose the source of fuel wood even other forests will soon disappear in the neighbouring environments,” he said.


Part of a flourishing mangrove forest. FILE PHOTO | AFP

“In Mshomoroni there are a lot of changaa breweries and they’re cutting down the trees for the industry. Some of the residents are constructing using mangroves. Wedding cooks use mangroves for firewood because it burns very quick and it is stronger,” he added.

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Dwindling fish reserves

The trend has also hit the vital fishing sector, a lifeline for many residents, as fish catch levels at the coast have gone down tremendously.

Meanwhile, fishermen in the catchment area have lamented the decline of fish stocks due to ongoing works at Kibarani after a wealthy private developer reclaimed 43 acres of the Indian Ocean, affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of locals.

Mombasa County Agriculture Executive, Antony Njaramba, claims the individual is using government influence and reclaim the resource.

“Hundreds of fishermen who used to earn their livelihood in the ocean have been affected. The individual is killing our ocean, tourism, heritage and culture. The county will no longer be an island after the reclamation,” he said.

According to Mr Njaramba, the area is among the biggest fishing grounds for fishermen in terms of high level fish such as lobsters and prawns.

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