March 1, 2021

Let’s involve communities in heritage conservation, says NMK

Human settlements under threat of rising sea levels globally along the Kenya's coastal front photo by courtesy

BY COAST NEWSPAPER CORRESPONDENT

The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) is rooting for community involvement in the conservation of heritage sites faced with imminent threats of coastal flooding and erosion due to sea-level rise.

The NMK, the state corporation that manages museums, sites and monuments contends that strong tidal waves caused by a warming planet are putting iconic and historical sites across the coastline at great risk.

Fort Jesus chief curator Fatma Twahir said many cultural and heritage sites in the coastal counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu are increasingly at risk due to sea level rise occasioned by climate change.

“Our heritage sites are under threat of climate change, sea level rise is threatening to destroy them,” claimed Twahir.

Speaking at a Climate Action and Disaster Risk Management forum in the port village of Shimoni in Kwale County, Fatma said the risks facing the heritage sites if not ‘well mitigated could have negative effects on their world heritage values’.

She said in an interview that heritage sites and landmarks like the Siyu fort in Lamu, Jumba La Mtwana (the large house of the slave) in Kilifi and the Shimoni slave caves and Kongo Mosque both in Kwale are all at risk of being lost to the sea because of ceaseless coastal erosion.

LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Fatma said the NMK in conjunction with the British Council Cultural Protection Fund is engaging local communities around the sites to be active in efforts aimed at preserving heritage sites for posterity.

Seawaves eating up coral reefs along the Kenya’s beachfront, photo by courtesy

The curator said the NMK is encouraging stakeholders to support the actions and mobilizations of communities for enhanced heritage management and preservation.

She said the NMK is doing everything possible to fortify the historical and cultural edifices along the coastline to ensure they are not washed away and preserved for the sake of posterity.

On his part the Shimoni Slavery Museum Curator Patrick Abungu underscored the need to strengthen the role of local communities in the management and protection of heritage sites in low-lying coastal areas.

He said storm surges and increasing coastal erosion occasioned by climate change are the biggest potential threats to world heritage sites around the globe and that Kenya was no exception.

Abungu said many historical and cultural sites along the shoreline enlisted by UNESCO for their outstanding universal value now face perilous and uncertain futures due to sea-level rise.

He said the NMK in collaboration with stakeholders is seeking to promote adaptation strategies aimed at protecting the country’s endangered heritage sites.

The curator said the NMK is determined to strengthen the involvement of local communities in the management and preservation of heritage sites.

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