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Save our beaches and oceans – how planned dredging threatens precious habitats on Kenya’s beautiful coast

 

Around our coast, nature provides us with more than beautiful scenery. The intimate relationships between the sea, coastline and plants and animals that live there contribute immensely to people’s lives.

Here in Kenya, sea grass beds, beautiful corals reefs, sea turtles and mangrove forests form part of this magnificent web of life. Our 650 km long coastline is home to a diverse array of marine species and supports the livelihoods of thousands of people. The natural systems of our coastline support fishing and other jobs, and help to stabilise the shoreline.

Sea turtle. Photo: Mike Olendo/WWF KenyaSea turtles are part of the rich wildlife along Kenya’s coast. Photo: Mike Olendo/WWF Kenya

It is therefore very disturbing that there are proposed plans to dredge this area and remove five million tonnes of sand and marine debris. This poses great danger to these fragile habitats, to wildlife and to people’s livelihoods.

I have written here before about how WWF here in Kwale works to make sure that the environment is well managed and looked after. We strive to improve decision making related to the natural world. This includes making sure the public is properly involved and that these decisions are socially and environmentally responsible.

This has become increasingly important as we face rapid large-scale investments in infrastructure funded by government and private sector.

These investments are critical for development and economic growth. But they need to be based on sound environmental and social safeguards. Otherwise, the natural systems upon which we depend will suffer.

The proposed dredging of the renowned tourist haven of Diani beach on Kenya’s south coast is to provide materials to build a new rail line linking Kenya to other Eastern African countries. The line is of great economic value to the whole of East Africa. However, such mega-projects should be conducted in a way that ensures sustainability of local economies and fragile natural habitats. They need to follow standards that ensure that these aspects of natural systems are taken care of.

If the planned dredging goes ahead as proposed, it will cause irreversible damage. Hundreds of fishermen stand to lose fishing grounds. We stand to lose an important breeding ground for endangered sea turtles. Sea grasses and coral reefs will be degraded and part of Diani beach – one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – will be destroyed.

The coastline supports livelihoods as well as nature. Photo: Mike Olendo/WWF KenyaThe coastline supports livelihoods as well as nature. Photo: Mike Olendo/WWF Kenya

Our natural coastal environments also act as carbon ‘sinks’, storing millions of tonnes of carbon and therefore helping regulate climate change.

It is estimated that seabed disturbance, through the proposed dredging, is likely to release greenhouse gases equivalent to more than 800 tonnes of CO2. This would contribute significantly to climate change.

We’ve mobilised local non-governmental organisations to demand more openness in this process. We’re calling for detailed studies of the impacts and proposed measures to reduce damage, as well as possible alternatives sources of sand. And we’ve written to the relevant authorities and the county Government to that effect.

So please join our campaign. Click here to sign our petition to save our beaches and oceans from dredging.

We call for support from everyone, you included. Together we are strong…together we can make a change.

Our work in Kwale, Kenya is supported by Size of Wales.

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