What price progress? Port expansion dredging costs residents their livelihoods

Beaches destroyed and 'moved' back, coral dying, fish disappearing , turnoff for tourists but it's all for the greater good.

In Summary

• Mombasa Port will handle 10 million containers annually in the next three decades. 

• Lamu too expanding at cost of environment and livelihoods. 

The ship which is drilling/DREDGING the LAPSSET corridor at Mkanda channel where ships will be passing to and from the port on October 23,2016.
DREDGING FOR PROGRESS: The ship which is drilling/DREDGING the LAPSSET corridor at Mkanda channel where ships will be passing to and from the port on October 23,2016.

In September this year, Kenya Ports Authority began expanding the port to upgrade THE regional shipping hub.

It involves dredging of the Access Channel and the Turning Basin at the Port of Mombasa to improve existing waterside facilities and expansion and modernisation projects.

Dredging removes silt and sediment from a canal or riverbed — and dumps it somewhere else, like on a coral reef, which kills reefs and marine creatures.


But silt-build-up makes it hard for deep-draft vessels to pass and dock. That just won't do for a major port.

The project aims at opening up the port to the world's largest container vessels. KPA has spent Sh16 million in Kwale ion Phase 2 of port development.

As with other major projects globally, the government focused on the benefits of the overall project to the country's regional trading bloc and transhipment zone.

­­­­­Fishermen barely catch anything when they cast their nets, while tourists have to walk long distances to get to the beaches that have moved further away due to soil erosion.

Coral reefs are dying. The heavy concentration of sediment makes it hard for hem to survive. They need sunlike and oxygen but pollution and silt blocks both of them.

A report by Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers said KPA in its development plans for the expansion of the port envisaged the reclamation of 100 hectares of the sea at Kilindini.

This land was meant for the development of 66 berths for container Freight Terminals. However, the officials failed to consider the effects of huge amounts of sand required for this venture, including constructing the foundation, building a framework and filling in the reclaimed area.


"Seeking to ward off competition and meet global demands to achieve Vision 2030, KPA proposed to harvest 7.5 million tonnes of sea sand from the Waa area for Phase 1 of the project, followed by a further eight million tonnes for Phases 2 and 3 from the entire coastline spanning the Diani beach corridor," the report reads.


Despite an environmental impact assessment stating that the project's effect on fishing would be minimal, fishermen say they have never seen a worse situation, the catch has never been smaller.

Rabbitfish, scavengers, sardines, sharks, stingrays, octopus and prawns have become very rare. Barracuda and lobsters have disappeared.

Fish traders claim that fish that used to sell for Sh70 to 80 per kilo are now selling for as much as Sh150— if they are ever found, that is.

Prawns used to earn fishermen Sh1.1 to Sh1.2 million and were very popular in Mombasa. But it's hard to find them nowadays.

The environmental impact assessment — which said the project's effects would be minimal — does warn that dredging the softbottom can remove important bottom-dwelling living aquatic life.

A new kind of aquatic life may eventually arise but it won't be the same as the life that has been lost to dredging.

Also, suspended polluting sediment from the dredging might kill fish, or they may avoid the area completely. Loud noise from the dredging and dumping machinery may disturb marine mammals.

The 2019 analysis of shoreline change for the Diani Beach Corridor of the South Coast said a project by the Kenya Ports Authority that harvested 16 tonnes of sand left the beach 'empty'.

KPA head of corporate affairs Benard Osero said, however, they followed due processes prior to dredging. He said they conducted Environmental Impact Assessments and even got approval from the National Environment Management Agency.

"According to international standards, the port cannot do dredging or harvest sand without conducting an environmental impact assessment. Even the international community will stop you," he said.

Even with the "positive" assessment report at hand, the report shows some beaches have been greatly affected by the dredging that gobbles up sand, leaving the shore miles away.

The report says the use of the coastal zone increased for human activities due to economic and population growth. "This has caused high soil erosion and loss of beach areas with a rate of offline change."

"Some beaches lie along the Diani beach corridor spanning the coast at Kaskazi beach southward to Monkey beach, a coastal stretch of about 11km, where erosion rates ranged from 53m to 109m per year," reads the report.

The worst-affected spots are beaches of Waa, Tiwi Beach north of Diani, Chale Reserve, Diani Beach off Kolekole, South of Mruveni Beach and off Hotel Sansorisa where the shoreline loss was more than 50.4m a year.

Dredging has the potential to deposit massive amounts of eroded sediments near the shore. Tourists make have an aversion to the dredging and decide to go elsewhere.

"The sand harvesting was conducted on the South Coast using suction hopper dredging vessels  — a method that drowned many beaches," the report said. 

The survey reported beach loss of as much as 2.6km in some areas, accounting for 70 per cent of total loss in the past 10 years. This suggested there were more activities on land and sea between 2009 and 2019.

Between 2016 and 2019, the Diani Beach corridor experienced massive shoreline changes, which were five times those experienced between 2013 and 2016. The erosion rates reported ranged from 14metres to 18 metres per year along the Diani Coast.

Some 56 people who regularly interact with the beaches were questioned in the survey. Most of them said the beaches along the Diani Coast have recessed over the past five to 10 years and the shoreline is likely to recede if the dredging is not controlled promptly.

The study warned that dredging deposits have the potential to damage sensitive marine habits, including seagrass beds and corals, thus smothering important life. The shoreline increased dramatically since 1999, with a beach loss of 112 metres.

"This huge shift in shorelines and beach losses is majorly attributed to human activities comprising beach developments as well as increased sand harvesting,  associated port development activities with nearshore marine waters, especially between 2013 and 2019," the report says.

In KPA's defence, Osero noted that sand harvesting activities were concluded a few months ago but the dumping of dredged waste still continues. He said it is usuall done in the high seas, contrary to the report. He said only fishermen who were affected during the first phase of Mombasa Port Development in 2016 warranted compensation.

“These groups were compensated for the loss of fishing grounds and landing sites as a result of reclamation and expansion of the port’s turning basin. No other case warrants compensation,” the officer said.