What you need to know:
- In 1989, an Italian investor called Roberto Macri arrived in Kipini after being invited by an Arab friend, but tragedy struck when their boat capsized during a tour expedition in river Tana, killing his wife.
“My name is Awadh Mbarak, a resident of Kipini town in Tana River County. I have lived here for many years. What is shocking to me is the way the ocean is eating away the shoreline, leaving my community under threat. These are the effects of climate change. So far, more than 600 metres of what used to be dry land have been eaten away by the sea.
In 1989, an Italian investor called Roberto Macri arrived in Kipini after being invited by an Arab friend, but tragedy struck when their boat capsized during a tour expedition in river Tana, killing his wife.
In 1992, he went back to Kipini and bought a piece of land just next to the ocean and decided to put up a hotel in remembrance of his late wife. He invested Sh60 million and became one of the players in the hotel industry, promoting Kipini as a tourist destination.
But then the ocean changed abruptly and started eating away the land. Slowly by slowly, the ocean took more land until the hotel couldn’t stand anymore. It collapsed. We should have known that the ocean would come for us next. The last five years have been a nightmare. Because of rising sea levels, we can longer dig pit latrines. Wells that used to give us fresh water now yield only salty water. Graves are shallow because if we dig the recommended six feet, the dead will be buried in water.
Construction of homes is now a headache because we can’t dig or build strong foundations anymore. We are refugees in our home, constantly looking over our shoulders, worried about the Indian Ocean swallowing us while we sleep. Today, more than four acres of land have been lost to the ocean and I’m sure more land will be lost soon.
For your information, some years back the people of Kipini used to live in Ungwana Bay, a land opposite the fishing town of Kipini but only separated by the waters of River Tana and the Indian Ocean. This is the point River Tana meets the ocean. But the rising sea level drove the villagers out. That’s how Kipini became a settlement because the fleeing locals sought refuge here. But now Kipini is no longer safe and we are running again.
From my perspective as a Kipini local, I believe we are to blame for our misery. We have destroyed the mangrove forests along the beach and now the ocean is angry and is coming for us. The destruction has largely been through farming and use of chemicals that are also destroying the ecosystem. But we can fix this. If we join hands and replant the forests that we’ve lost, we can reclaim our homes. We can have fresh water again.
My appeal to the government is to engage stakeholders, including local leaders at the county level and even officials of the beach management unit, to see how these effects of the rising water levels can be mitigated.
Even if this would mean constructing a seawall to protect lives and livelihoods, then we welcome the idea, because if something is not done, one day we will all wake up and find our homes swept away by the waters of the Indian Ocean.
—Compiled by Kevin Mutai