Climate Change threatens Kenya’s second largest City;-Mombasa

By Charles Ogallo

The Kenya’s coastal city faces threats from the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. Climate change has been singled out as a major challenge currently facing the world.

Mombasa is Kenya’s second largest city and has more than 700,000 inhabitants. It is the largest seaport in East Africa, serving not only Kenya but also many landlocked countries and the north of Tanzania.

The Coastal city has a history of disasters related to climate extremes including floods, which cause serious damage nearly every year and, often, loss of life. The floods in October 2006 were particularly serious, affecting some 60,000 people in the city and the wider province.

According to a local case study; Climate Change and Coastal Cities, a big chank of Mombasa city land will be submerged by a sea-level rise of just 0.3 metres, with a larger area rendered uninhabitable or unusable for agriculture because of water logging and salt stress.

Tourism which remains an important part of the city’s economy, sandy beaches and several hotels, industries and port facilities would also be negatively affected.

Climatologists believe Climate Change is caused by emissions of greenhouse gases, largely from energy production and consumption, agriculture and other ecological processes. The activities causing most emissions are key drivers of global socio-economic development.

Based on the study paper carried out in 2008 by a team of Kenya’s Marine and ocean researchers, three factors contribute to Mombasa’s high level of vulnerability to Climate change: low altitude, and high temperatures and humidity levels.

Parts of the city and its surroundings are likely to be submerged with a rise in sea level according to the paper. And this would consequently disrupt ecosystem functions and balance, disrupt agricultural and industrial activities, cause the destruction of human settlements and interfere with the water supply.

This may impact negatively on the city’s economy and, by extension, on the national economy due to the many activities and investments found in the area.

The study conducted by researchers from African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), International Development Research Centre and Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton , follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change- IPCC, Fourth Assessment Report, which has estimated that during the twentieth century, sea level has been rising at a rate of about two millimeters per year.

Other potential impacts of sea-level rise that scientists fear could affect Mombasa include: increased coastal storm damage and flooding; sea-shore erosion; salt water intrusion into estuaries and freshwater aquifers and springs, changes in sedimentation patterns, decreased light penetration to benthic organisms leading to loss of food for various marine fauna especially fish, and loss of coral reefs, contributing to loss of biodiversity, fisheries and recreational opportunities.

Kenya’s scientists have admitted that the high average temperatures are already approaching intolerable limits and can be uncomfortable at times. That increasing temperatures and humidity could create health-related problems such as heat stress, both on land and in the ocean.

Speaking to, Erick Okuku, a marine environmental researcher at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute concurred with IPCC report “ the high temperatures may lead to ecosystem disruption, migration and the possible extinction of various species of fauna, flora and microorganisms”.

Other reports have further forecasted that climate change could cause a sea level rise of about 20 centimeters by the year 2030, an indication that the earth's average surface temperature may increase by 1.5-4.50C over the next 100 years.

According to IPCC, this warming would cause the sea to rise in two ways: through thermal expansion of ocean water, and through the shrinking of ice caps and mountain glaciers if no specific measures are taken to abate greenhouse.

Higher sea-levels would threaten low-lying coastal areas and small islands especially those with the Western Indian Ocean.

“The sea-level rise figures given by the IPCC may appear modest. However, the forecasted rise would put millions of people and millions of square kilometers of land at risk; Mombasa city included” Erick Added.

According to him, Mombasa is already affected by extreme climatic events, especially Floods, droughts and strong winds. These climate-related disasters are projected to increase in frequency and intensity with long-term climate change.

A number of activities have been recommended to be carried out to minimize the city’s vulnerability to climate change, both in terms of adaptation and mitigation:

But Climate change adaptation and mitigation projects are said to be quite costly. Oxfam International, the UK-based advocacy group, estimates that developing countries around the world need 50 billion U.S. dollars a year to survive the impacts of climate change.

An African Development Bank report issued recently, said that 320 million U.S. dollars of public funds are now available to be used for climate change adaptation.

Oxfam in its study rises fears that the frequent climate-related disasters "will send poor people tumbling into a downward spiral of increasing vulnerability as their assets are eroded, resulting in longer and longer recovery times."

Antonio Hill, senior policy adviser for climate change of Oxfam said funding -- or the lack of it -- is one of the most crucial issues that need to be addressed when ministers from around the world sit down in Copenhagen this December to discuss anew treaty on climate change.

"Copenhagen needs to mobilize very significant financial and technological resources to assist developing countries in their adaptation measures and additional mitigation actions," Hill said. "

The Kenya’s researchers study paper however, focuses on measures that could reduce Mombasa’s vulnerability to the anticipated climate change impacts, as well as promoting adaptation. These range from immediate actions, such as enforcing the existing legislation, to long-term measures, such as coming up with development plans that take into account future climatic conditions.

“Enforcing the Physical Planning Act and city by-laws to ensure that areas earmarked for basic services such as water and sanitation are not interfered with could help reduce flooding and the outbreak of water-borne diseases, as these have been blamed on blocked drainage and damaged water supply infrastructure” says the researchers in their study paper.

They are also optimistic that the impacts of sea-level rise could be reduced through properly planned irrigation away from sea shores, and other land management practices that could be used to manage floods and reduce water run-off into the oceans.

The paper recommends that the Kenya government, NGOs and local communities collaborate to construct water reservoirs and apply appropriate land management practices, in regards to ensuring proper conservation and management of the coastal environment, including beaches and related ecosystems.

“These measures being taken should take into account available scientific information and indigenous environmental conservation practices” The study concluded.


Raphael Mudambo said…
You mean this is the danger ahead of us. for God's seek how can we stop this ! plz write more of this to inform us- Raphe,Dar-es-lam Tanzania .

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