BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA
Dredging and dumping of sand for the Second Phase of the Mombasa port development project has sparked public interest with some stakeholders expressing fears over the ongoing activities and its impact on the marine ecosystem.
This concern was the basis of the meeting between the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and stakeholders from the tourism and marine sectors at the Leisure Lodge Resort Hotel-Diani in Kwale County on Friday (April 12, 2019).
After half-day deliberations, a Joint Special Committee was constituted to address the environmental concerns arising from two major marine construction projects being undertaken by the authority.
Currently, KPA is constructing Phase II of the Second Container Terminal and the relocation of Kipevu Oil Terminal (KOT) which require disposal of seabed material (spoil) offshore and harvesting of sand off the coast of Kwale (TIWI).
The two projects are important for the country in line with the Big Four Agenda.
But following stakeholders’ concerns over inadequate information about the impacts of the operations on the environment, the Authority organized for a special engagement forum at which the special committee was established.
Consequently, the committee’s inaugural meeting is scheduled for Tuesday (April 16) next week in South Coast.
Those who attended the meeting are KPA’s Acting General Manager Infrastructure Development Eng. Alfred Masha, Head of Projects Development and Management Eng. Kennedy Nyaga and Likoni Deputy County Commissioner Eric Mulevu.
Others were the Coast Tours Association chairperson Sally Mathenge, Beach Management Units (BMUs) representative Mugandi Kalika, members of the South Coast Resident Association and local tour operators.
Following a successful stakeholders’ meeting at KPA Headquarters on March 27, 2019, the authority promised to conduct study and communicate in the next meeting.
“The main purpose of engagement is to continue sharing details of the proposed Project with the stakeholders and assuring them that their concerns have been addressed,” the managing director Dr Daniel Manduku said in a letter dated March 27, 2019.
According to the MD the premise for engagement was to ascertain that public interests have been incorporated in the project as the authority is currently implementing critical phase of the same (project).
In his March18, 2019 Facebook post, maritime expert Andrew Mwangura expressed worry the dredging exercise will affect the livelihoods of the fishing community with Mombasa County and its environs.
“Unless they go deeper into the sea, this ongoing exercise will disrupt the fishing grounds closer to where the dredging is taking place,” he said adding that resultant outcome is the dwindling of earning capacity and fish folk.
He described dredging as the removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of lakes, rivers, harbors, and other water bodies.
On the other hand, the disposal of dredged material can lead to a temporary decrease in water transparency, increased concentrations of suspended matter, and increased rates of sedimentation.
“Increasing exposure to suspended sediment makes it harder for fish to find their food, elevates their stress levels, and causes damage to fish gills affecting growth, development and swimming ability,” he added.
According to him the ongoing dredging exercise to expand the port is being carried out by a Cyprus flagged Hopper Dredger MV Willem Van Oranje and a Chinese flagged Hopper Dredger MV Jun Hai 6.