Coast hoteliers anxious as agency issues alert over rising sea level

By Philip Mwakio | Apr 16, 2024
A sea wall erected at the Vasco Da Gama pillar site in Malindi, Kilifi County on Thursday, July 2, 2020. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) has issued an alert over the rising water level in the Indian Ocean, making its way into hotels and other establishments along the beach at the Coast.

The agency said the phenomenon started last week. A similar occurrence was last experienced during the 1997/98 El Nino rains that destroyed property in the region.

Yesterday, experts at KMFRI attributed the phenomenon to the new moon that has caused high water spring tides of more than 4 meters above the lowest astronomical tide.

KMFRI Principal Research Scientist and Head of Sea Level Monitoring, Dr Charles Magori said the Indian Ocean water levels were also rising due to the strong winds that have generated strong waves.

Dr Magori attributed the water high water levels to the ongoing heavy rains that have enhanced river discharge from the hinterland and coastal upstream areas.

"This kind of phenomenon was last experienced during the 1997/98 El Nino rains where coastal areas were flooded, coral reefs were inundated resulting in coral bleaching," he said.

During the 197/98 El Nino rains, the fragile mangroves forests were destroyed as the inter-tidal areas where mangrove vegetation grows were completely flooded, resulting in some die-back.

A spot check at the popular Marina Seaside Restaurant located along the shores of the Mtwapa Creek revealed sea water having entered the premises and main kitchen areas on two consecutive days.

The resort sales manager, Alice Gacheru said the sea level started rising last week and before they could comprehend the situation, the sea water from the creek had filled the lower section.

"We normally check the tide levels and saw something out of the ordinary. This made us stay alert and even informed our guests who had booked with us. Some opted to postpone while others came and sat close to the jetties to watch the phenomenon unfold," Ms Gatheru said.

For Justine Walters, a regular at the premises, it was not the first time they encountered what he termed as 'furious water tides.'

"These are super spring tides with the moon always playing a big factor. It does not last for long but may cause problems," he said.

Berk Pamuk, a road engineer, who is a regular visitor of the restaurant, said that he was delighted to see the water gushing in and wanted to continue having a good time in knee-deep waters.

Magori said that according to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC, 2021), sea level is rising at an average rate of about 3mm per year globally.

The rise in sea level is exponential and is projected to rise by more than one meter by the end of the 21st century.

Rises in mean sea level by only a few tens of centimeters could result in loss of land due to erosion and inundation of low-lying coastal areas, saltwater intrusion into coastal ecosystems and groundwater systems, and loss of terrestrial and marine biodiversity. This could result in wide economic, cultural, and ecological repercussions.

He said what is currently being experienced is a manifestation of climate change. "We therefore advise coastal communities or residents especially those in low-lying coastal areas to exercise caution during this period and possibly move to higher/safer grounds until the situation subsides," Magori said.

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