Chindoro Mwingo, a subsistence fisherman in Changamwe in Mombasa County, is a worried man.
His catch has been on the decline, dropping from 38 kilogramme per day to a paltry two or three.
“Sometimes, we come back empty-handed,” said Mr Mwingo as him and his team embarked on another night of fishing in the Indian Ocean. In his village, some 350 people depend on fishing.
They all know the reason for the dwindling fish stock: mega infrastructure projects coming up on the fish landing sites. The projects have also destroyed 7,000 acres of mangrove trees in the area.
Mwingo and others are not opposed to the projects, though. They believe the State should come up with a strategy to support the two activities.
It is a delicate balancing act having the multi-billion infrastructure projects and the priceless environments and the people’s ways of life.
“Before construction of the Port Reitz Bridge began, we would get a catch of about 38 kilogrammes of bronze a day which we sold at Sh700 per kilogramme,” said Mwingo.
It is not fishermen only who are worried about the effects of the projects in Mombasa. Conservationists say the mangrove cover in the city has also been affected.
At Port Rietz, John Nyamwenye Orina, the treasurer of Mombasa Kilindini Forest Association (MKFA), said the projects have destroyed over 7,000 acres of mangrove (mikoko) forest.
The forests are giving way to the construction of Port Reitz Bridge connecting Dongo Kundu by-pass. Mombasa Northern By-pass and Kipevu Oil Terminus.
Mr Orina said the special economic zone project has also taken up 3,000 acres of ocean land and it will affect mangrove in Likoni and Mwangake.
The Port Reitz project alone has affected over 88 acres of mangrove forest, according to a report by Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS).
Jeremy Mutuku, an officer with KFS, said there are 30,000 acres of depleted land that need to be replenished in Mombasa County.
Last week, MKFA said it would plant 232,950 seedlings on sites chosen by KFS to restore the mangroves.
“We are left with 3,287 acres of mangrove in the whole of Mombasa County from over 10,000 acres. The ongoing multi-billion projects have affected the whole belt line of mangroves and the ocean has turned reddish in some parts,” said Orina.
Orina, who is charged with the preservation of public and community forests in Mombasa, said that the mangroves were the only forest left in Mombasa after the Kaya Forest got depleted.
The United Nations Development Programme has funded a biodiversity survey and social economic assessment on the value of mangroves to the communities around.
KFS report indicates that there are seven species of mangroves in Mombasa and each has a different use. It states that some are used for medicine, others as food and breeding ground for fish.
Locals communities also use the tree to build structures and as firewood. The three also absorb carbon dioxide from the air and prevent soil erosion.
Mwingo said due to drilling of pillar holes, fish had disappeared and they are now seeking funds to construct a fish pond in the areas where the mangroves have been depleted.
Mr Mutuku said KFS had a policy encouraging government agencies to adopt a site of one or more kilometres to plant mangroves.
KenTrade CEO Amos Wangora said that it is everyone’s obligation to guard against environmental degradation by planting trees.
While planting 1100 mangrove trees at the Portreiz Mangrove site in Mombasa, Mr Wangora said the agency would plant over 4000 mangrove trees and take good care of them until they are fully grown.
KenTrade director Rose Masita said Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko commissioned planting of 50 million seedlings during the last quarter of 2020.
On his part, Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) head and assistant director of corporate communications Charles Njogu said they were planting mangroves at a ratio of 1:4 for every acre of lost forest cover.