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Dredging in Kenya: an update on the campaign to save beautiful beaches and precious habitats

 

In my last blog I brought to your attention plans to remove millions of tonnes of sea sand and debris off the south coast of Kenya which poses great danger to fragile habitats, wildlife and people’s livelihoods. This blog is to update you on this issue – the struggle is still on and far from over.

We recognise and support the need for development and economic growth in Kenya, but this development needs to be bound by sound environmental and social safeguards that protect people’s livelihoods and delicate ecosystems, and we don’t believe this is the case for the proposed dredging. Coastal ecosystems in Kenya support more that 3 million people and we need to be sure that short-term gains don’t damage the long-term sustainability of these resources – for people and for wildlife.

A fisherman in KenyaA fisherman in Kenya. Photo: Mike Olendo/WWF-Kenya

As I explained in my last blog, we made a formal submission opposing the proposed dredging. Unfortunately the lead government agency went ahead and issued the necessary licenses for the harvesting to start. As you can imagine, this was disappointing and deeply shocking for us. To make matters worse, no compensation framework has been developed for the fishermen, hoteliers, divers and other beach users who will be significantly negatively impacted by this project.

But the story doesn’t stop there…

I was overwhelmed by the support that was received after my last blog and this international voice added to our efforts to mobilise civil society organisations to petition the National Environment Tribunal (NET) to cancel the license. A lot of our work is about building the capacity of civil society organisations to advocate for more sustainable natural resource management and this was a great example of putting that theory into practise! With our support, Kwale County Natural Resource Network (KCNRN) provided a written submission to NET clearly identifying the potential negative impacts of the project including loss of critical marine ecosystems including sea grass beds, corals reefs, sea turtle breeding sites, beaches and mangrove forests. The knock-on impacts on livelihoods, particularly for fishermen and those involved in the tourism industry, was also highlighted. And I’m pleased to say notice was taken. The battle is far from over, but permits have been suspended pending further investigation by the National Environment Tribunal.

A turtle in Kenya. A turtle in Kenya. Photo: Mike Olendo/WWF-Kenya

With our support, stakeholders also wrote to the National Parliament Committee on Environment and Natural Resources asking for cancellation of the licence and banning of sea sand harvesting in the entire south coast. Last week, representatives of the Parliament Committee met stakeholders in Diani and listened to our concerns – chief among them the fact that studies to investigate the impact of the dredging work were insufficient and so appropriate mitigation methods couldn’t been assured.

As we await the hearing of the tribunal and the Parliamentary Committee, we must keep putting pressure on the government to stop the dredging from destroying Kwale’s incredible marine ecosystem. I you haven’t done so already, please sign our petition.

Together we are stronger… together we can make a change.

WWF’s work in Kwale, Kenya is supported by Size of Wales.

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