Mombasa and other coastal islands threatened by sea level rise, cautions CS Judi Wakhungu

The Island of Mombasa is among coastal islands threatened by sea level rise. MAP|GOOGLE

KILIFI COUNTY: Millions of inhabitants along the Kenyan coastal strip might relocate elsewhere as climate change-induced sea level rise threatens to submerge islands, government officials warned on Thursday on the World Environment Day.

Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resource, said coastal towns and villages risk being inundated due to rising water levels.

"Kenya is not an exception in the effects of rising sea level and associated wave erosion. Researchers have confirmed a 2.2- millimetre rise of Indian ocean waters annually," said Wakhungu.

Speaking during the World Environment Day Cerebration in the Coastal town of Kilifi, Wakhungu noted that climate change threatens the multi-million-dollar marine ecosystem.

The 2014 World Environment Day focused on the impacts of climate change on oceans. Government officials, researchers and conservationists noted climate change threatens the survival of Kenyan lakes and seas.

"Credible scientific findings have revealed that an increase of 30 centimetres is capable of causing the submergence of Mombasa and 17 percent of coastal areas. It is estimated that 267,000 people will be at risk of coastal flooding by 2030 if no deterrent measures are put in place," said Wakhungu.

Kenya has an expansive coastline that is the bedrock of tourism and fishing industries.

Rapid population growth, urbanization and climate change have posed new challenges to livelihoods along the 600-kilometer Kenyan coastline.

He noted flooding has become a recurrent phenomenon in many coastal towns thanks to rising temperatures.

"Kenya has not only experienced a rise in sea level but also the expansion of inland lakes due to increased water volumes causing submergence of adjacent areas," Wakhungu observed.

She said fresh water lakes have recorded a rise in water levels. Kenya is signatory to the international convention on protection of oceans and marine life.

Wakhungu reaffirmed the government's commitment to protect marine ecosystems from industrial pollution and over-exploitation.

"We must take responsible actions to reduce global warming and enhance sound management of marine resources," said Wakhungu.

Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Environment Richard Lesiyampe said climate change has worsened poverty, loss of rare habitats and diseases along the Kenyan coast.

"There is need to sensitize communities on actions that would minimize impacts of climate change on marine ecosystem. Uncontrolled emissions and human encroachment threaten fisheries and tourism in the Kenyan coast," said Lesiyampe.