Sand harvesting and dumping of dredged materials off the South Coast by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has cost the local economy more than $3 million.
A new report commissioned by the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, and undertaken by the association’s research department, says KPA’s expansion of the port under the Mombasa Port Development Project has had negative effects on the environment and local economy.
The Ksh16-billion ($160 million) project has interfered with fishing patterns due to changes in visibility in the water as a result of increased sand particles distributed by water currents during harvesting.
The quality of the water is now not conducive for marine life, reducing the catch volumes and earnings of fishermen from Kwale and Mombasa counties by 95 per cent.
The fishermen are prohibited by KPA from fishing within a radius of eight kilometres in the areas where the dredging ship operates.
The study says that the dredged materials from the port area are dumped at Shelly Beach in Mombasa County, affecting the quality of the marine environment.
“The exercise has reduced returns from sale of fish in Timbwani Beach Management Unit and in Shelly Beach. They have recorded an 80 per cent drop in annual revenue due to dwindling fish stock, since fishermen have to work more hours with less output, which results in fatigue and low labour productivity,” the report states.
The number of fishermen operating in Timbwani has dropped from 121 to 50 since the dredging began.
Due to the ban on fishing, there has been reduced income due to low business from Ksh5,000 ($50) per week to Ksh500 ($5) per week per fisherman.
Restaurants that depend on local fish are shutting down due to inadequate supply of stock, the report states.
Tourism has also been affected by water pollution, making the beaches in South Coast less attractive for swimming and reef walking.
The study recommends an immediate stop and decommissioning of affected beaches. It also projects that if sand harvesting continues, Diani Beach will be eroded, resulting in the collapse of the tourism sector and the economy of the entire South Coast region.