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Counties

Lamu hotels bear brunt of mangrove logging ban

The new face of Bush Gardens Seafront Restaurant in Lamu Town
The new face of Bush Gardens Seafront Restaurant in Lamu Town. It was recently renovated using mangroves. More structures need repair but it has become difficult due to scarcity of mangroves. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NMG 

The ban on mangrove logging has led to high maintenance costs for buildings in Lamu County.

Investors in the hotel industry have borne the biggest brunt of the situation as they are forced to get alternative timber needed to maintain their structures at double or triple the cost.

Some have even been forced to stop rehabilitating their premises as they cannot cope with the high costs.

Some investors interviewed by the Business Daily in Lamu Old Town, Shella, Kipungani, Matondoni, Mkokoni, Kiwayu, Faza and Pate said they used to buy a mangrove pole at between Sh100 and Sh200 but since the ban, they are now buying the same material at Sh400.

Getting mangrove timber also proved difficult, they say, which has forced them to use cedar and blue gum timber, which is even more expensive.

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Ms Fridah Njeri, the proprietor of the Floating Bar Restaurant in Lamu, said the ban has resulted in the scarcity of mangroves across the county.

“No one is willing to sell mangrove even if they have it in their depots for fear of being arrested due to the existing ban. We used to buy mangrove poles for Sh200 only.

"Those who are lucky enough to get the mangrove poles buy them at Sh400. The scarcity of mangroves has forced us to opt for cedar and blue gum which is very expensive. A blue gum pole goes for not less than Sh800,” said Ms Njeri.

The proprietor of the Lamu Floating Bar and Restaurant, Fridah Njeri

The proprietor of the Lamu Floating Bar and Restaurant, Fridah Njeri, showing some wood they have now opted to use instead of mangroves. Costs of maintenance for buildings in Lamu has doubled since the ban on mangroves was imposed in the country a year ago. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NMG

Repair costs

Mr Ghalib Alwy, the owner of Lamu Bush Gardens Seafront Restaurant, called on the government to lift the ban so that investors in the hotel industry and residents can repair their houses.

Mr Alwy, who also doubles as the chairperson of the Lamu Cultural Promotional Group, said besides affecting loggers and investors in the hotel and housing industry, it has also had a negative impact on the architectural progress of buildings in Lamu Old Town, a Unesco-listed heritage site.

Many houses that were to be renovated now remain desolate for lack of wood and timber.

Lamu architectural designs all involve the use of mangrove wood that is considered a cultural heritage passed down hundreds of generations.

According to Mr Alwy, every single building coming up in Lamu uses only mangrove wood and nothing else.

“That’s how this Old Town was built and that’s how it’s supposed to stay if at all we talk of preserving the cultural essence of this place. Lamu and mangrove are tied together.

"One can’t do without the other and so the ban is basically stifling many other sectors. It should be lifted,” said Mr Alwy.

Mr Charo Kombe, a hotelier said some tourists are now shying away from visiting their hotels due to the dilapidated nature of their buildings.

“Hotel roofs need constant repair using mangroves. If we don’t get them, that means our buildings have to remain in dilapidated nature. That alone is chasing away our clients. Let the ban be lifted.

"We need those mangroves since they are a crucial element in our business,” said Mr Kombe.

Lift ban

The hoteliers’ sentiments come just days after mangrove loggers in the county came out accusing the government of reneging on its promise to have the ban on mangrove lifted.

On December 18 last year, Deputy President William Ruto toured Pate Village in Lamu East and ordered the Ministry of Environment to lift the ban by January 2 this year.

DP Ruto however urged the ministry and even the residents themselves to ensure harvesting is done in a sustainable manner.

He directed all licensed mangrove loggers to have their permits renewed so that they get to carry on with the trade.

Despite the order, no one has been allowed to access the forest at the moment with those found breaching the ban arrested and charged.

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