Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kenya Now Anticipate to Break Records in Support of A Clean Marine Environment.

By Charles Ogallo

Hundreds of Kenyans took the Weekend of World Clean-Up to the Coastal beaches , a year after a report named Kenya the second worst polluter of the ocean in Africa.

Over 3,000 volunteers, led by top officials from the Ministry of Environment came out this team to participate in the annual International Clean-up held at the Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach in Mombasa on 19th September 2009 in what was seen as an attempt by Kenya to prove the report wrong this year.

The Coastal Clean-up was also held in Kilifi, Malindi, Diani, Watamu, Shimoni, Kikambala, Fort Jesus and English Point where hundreds of other volunteers gathered to clear the beaches of debris.

According to last years International Ocean Report done by over 148 ocean conservancies in Washington DC, Kenya was named the second worst polluters in the shame list after Nigeria.

Used shotgun shells, over 2000 used condoms, fridges and gas cookers were collected during the last years clean -up exercise in Watamu and Shimoni along the Kenyan Coast, the report says.

Kenya debris rate is believed to be increasing each year due to increase in the number of recreation activities along the Coast.

Fred Sewe who is the Managing Director for International Coastal Clean-up said the recreation activities have approximately risen to 300 percent in just under one year, and said stakeholders and the public should be sensitized and guided on dangers of marine pollution which is a major threat to the environment.

"Ocean Conservancy's Coastal Clean-up engages volunteer organizations and individuals to remove trash and debris from the world's beaches and waterways; to identify the sources of the debris, and to change behaviors that cause marine debris in the first place," he added.

Volunteers who participated in the exercise however, sounded their interests and support in keeping on with the campaign and lobbying other Kenyans to join the fight against pollution of the endeared coastal marine environment.

“Our beaches need to be protected from pollution and I think local authorities neighboring the Kenya coastline need to come up with renewed by-laws on marine environment preservation”. Says Tom Anjere, a senior provincial administrator based in the coastal city of Mombasa.

An official from the Ministry of Environment who presided over the beach clean-up added that Kenya will be looking to break all records by mobilizing tens of millions of volunteers in support of the environment after the 17th Clean Up the World Weekend.

Held in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Clean Up the World Weekend is the cornerstone event of this global campaign.

The campaign has grown steadily since the inaugural event in 1993 with activities ranging from cleaning up small villages to overhauling entire countries.

According to Clean the World, one of the organizers of this year’s event the world weekend provides the perfect opportunity for communities to unite to take practical measures to help tackle environmental issues such as climate change on a global scale.

From tree planting and re-vegetation to waste reduction and recycling, Clean Up the World volunteers from Algeria to Kenya in Africa, Australia to Vanuatu in Asia Pacific, Iraq to United Arab Emirates in West Asia, Argentina to Venezuela in the Americas and Austria to the United Kingdom in Europe joined the campaign to show the world that acting on a local level can positively impact what is a global problem.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner praised communities participating in Clean Up the World for the important contribution they were making to the global effort to improve the environment and address climate change.

“In 80 days from now, the world’s leaders will be meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark to negotiate what, we all hope, will be a path-breaking new agreement on how to address climate change. We are faced with many dramatic developments that will affect citizens, rich and poor, in north and south, and east and west”

Mr. Steiner said since the start of the campaign, Clean Up the World members worldwide have collected an estimated 3,574,991 tonnes of rubbish - enough to fill 5,710 Olympic size swimming pools. Plastic, glass, metal and cigarette butts are among the most commonly found rubbish items every year.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Climate Change poses threats to 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 socioeconomic 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 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.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Kenyan groups take onus to protect ocean

By Miano Kihu

UN Declaration setting aside June 8 as a World Ocean Day has won acclaim of organizations that work with Kenyan coast communities in protecting the Indian Ocean.

Eco-Ethics International-Kenya Chapter (EEIU-K), a member of the Word Ocean Network, says the UN move is a major step in the oceans conservation campaign because this requires the governments of the world to give direct support such efforts.

Even before the UN declaration, Eco-Ethics International-Kenya has been marking the day since June 8, 2006, together with other like-minded advocacy groups and individuals.

“We hope that the setting aside of the World Ocean Day by the UN will now obligate our Kenya government and other governments to extend the much desired political and material support to the activities of that special day and to the overall campaign to safe oceans,” says Mr Bernard Okeyo, the Director of EEIU-K.

According to him, efforts to protect the oceans which cover 21 per cent of the earth surface have received relatively smaller support than they deserved -- if one considers the enormous resources that are otherwise dedicated to the conservation of the environment as a whole.

“Our lobby for a world oceans day has finally paid off after many years; however, our work has just begun,” Okeyo told representatives of various grassroots youth organizations attending a sensitization meeting at the coastal town of Mombasa.

For four years, World Ocean Day organizing community spearheaded by Eco-Ethics International has been public lectures, beach cleanup exercises and performances by the local communities – all meant to create awareness about the sea as a livelihood source and also to mobilize the locals to take it upon every one of them to look after the sea.

This year’s events climaxed on June 13 at the centuries old Fort Jesus grounds on the Mombasa island.

The lobbyists believe that with sufficient awareness, education and adaption of ocean friendly practices in fishing and in the disposal of waste, among other things, would help address the biggest challenges that the ocean faces in this part of the world.These include pollution from factories and beach hotels, municipal wastes, destructive fishing, destruction of mangrove forests and shipwrecks.

Mr Richard Kiaka, a program officer with EEIU-K says a series of community based programs undertaken by the organization has demonstrated the potential and willingness of locals to take good care of the ocean by even adapting technologies that are eco-friendly.

His organization has, for instance, helped several fishing groups in the villages south of Mombasa to replace their destructive fishing methods such as beach seining with better and discriminative fishing gears. Other support has included making the locals recognize the dangers of certain practices to the ocean environment such as disposal of plastics and human waste.

But Mr Hassan Grieves, leader of a lobby group called PREPARED says when it comes to focusing and taking action on destructive in the sea, such attention should also focus on the big operators in the sea such as trawlers who continue to cause wanton destruction of marine ecosystem in the eastern African region.

“We always talk of pirates as those with small boats; what about the pirate with the big vessel who is only motivated by big profit today no matter how much destruction he visits upon the environment?” he posed.

He however exudes hope that the UN has conceded to making June 8 as a World Ocean Day.

Saturday, June 06, 2009



Monday June 8th 2009 is World Ocean Day. Throughout the world scientists, politicians and fishing industry, meet to discuss our Oceans’ problems and talk about possible solutions to preserve wildlife while at the same time trying to economically and sustainably fish..

Hundreds of other communities around the globe will also be celebrating World Oceans Day –as an opportunity to learn about our world ocean and our personal connection to the sea, to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives, and the important ways people can help to protect our shared world ocean.

The Ocean Project – with over 830 Partner aquariums, zoos, science museums and other educational organizations in all 50 states and 70 countries – is the largest network ever formed to focus on conservation of the ocean. The Ocean Project, working closely with the World Ocean Network, helps to coordinate events and activities to celebrate World Oceans Day with our Partners and other organizations around the globe. Working together, we also succeeded in our petition to have the United Nations officially designate World Oceans Day as June 8th each year.

This year’s theme: Since climate change and the ocean are inextricably tied together, and our society’s future depends on a healthy climate and a healthy world ocean, this year’s theme will better make that connection that binds us together as part of an interconnected planet. This year we are encouraging Partners to promote the theme "one ocean, one climate, one future."

Climate change and the ocean: The ocean and climate are inextricably linked – the ocean plays a crucial role in maintaining the Earth’s climate and ocean life is vulnerable to climate change. As human activities produce too much carbon dioxide, it is absorbed by the ocean and, as a result, ocean waters are becoming warmer and more acidic, threatening the fundamental building blocks of life in the ocean. The ocean is also rising as a result of climate change.

Impact on marine life: Coral reefs - important food, medicinal, economic, aesthetic and cultural resources - are particularly vulnerable to these changes. Scientists are recording record coral reef die-offs and are worried about the future survival of these treasured ecosystems. Other ocean life and ecosystems are also at risk - invasive species and diseases are spreading into new waters, and marine mammals continue to face decreased food supplies as a result of climate change and other factors. People’s homes and livelihoods in coastal communities are seriously threatened as sea level continues to rise and severe weather events increase in frequency.

World Oceans Day provides an opportunity to make the connections between a healthy climate and a healthy ocean, and our own lives. People can learn more and get directly involved in protecting our future through ocean-themed art contests, musical events, beach and watershed cleanups, sustainable seafood events, outdoor exploration and educational programs, storm drain stenciling, film festivals, and more.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A new report puts Kenya on the Spot over Ocean Pollution.

By Charles Ogallo

Kenya is listed among major polluters of the Ocean in Africa and said to be among developing countries in the world with poor marine environmental management policies which are able to curb mass marine pollutions.

The new Ocean Conservancy report features Kenya as the second worst polluter after Nigeria, with almost 90,000 items such as plastic bags, Leaking chemical drums, cast-off motor-oil bottles and paint cans and many other items dumped annually in its Coastline.

The report comes few days after a team of local researchers admitted that Kenyan coastal waters was unsafe both for marine wildlife and coastal residents, implicating poor management of the marine ecosystem as main cause of alarm.

Researchers from a Mombasa based Kenya Marine and Fisheries research Institutes also said uncontrolled mass discharge of both liquid and solid waste materials from local industries and residential houses to the ocean was to blame.

Over population and heavy development going on along the coastline have also been identified as threats to the Coastal marine ecosystem.

Dick Okuku, an environmental science researcher at the institution questioned local authorities bordering the Kenyan Coastline commitments on marine life safety.

“Locals authorities have failed to tackle ocean water pollution, they lack the capacity to control waste disposal into the ocean. They have failed to enforce their laws on solid waste management and what we are seeing now is all disaster in waiting” said Okuku.

“What we need now is the entire government’s commitments through the National environmental Management Authority to overhaul the denting scenario where all kind of trashes are unfairly dumped at the beaches ending up into the ocean “Okuku added.

The ocean Conservancy report indicates that the heavy volume of trashes collected during the 2008 international beaches cleanup was illustrations of the scope of hazards faced every single day by wildlife in the ocean.

Accordingly researchers say the marine debris threatens life of marine wildlife. Marine debris not only entangles marine life, it sickens, injures, and kills wildlife in and around waterways everywhere as ocean winds and currents circulate dangerous trash all across the world.

Leaking chemical drums, cast-off motor-oil bottles and paint cans, rusting cars and household appliances, and many other items dump into the sea affect not only wildlife but also the ecosystems they depend on for food, shelter, and the rearing of young. And when toxic materials from marine debris get into the seafood supply they may compromise human health.

Marine debris is but another stress on an ocean already beleaguered by many other human-caused stresses including coastal development, pollution, over fishing, and now climate change.

“Marine debris doesn’t fall from the sky, it falls from human hands—and human hands have the power to stop it ” says the report. It therefore recommends an expanded public and private partnership in monitoring and reducing marine debris.

Its also calling for increased fund to promote research on the sources and impacts of marine debris as while as seek better technological solutions to debris management and reduction. Understanding the sources and impacts of marine debris is integral to finding solutions that work.

Apart from debris management and reduction, a meeting of world environmental Ministers held recently at the United Nations Environmental Program –UNEP headquarters in Nairobi also resolved to commit every member country in tackling heavy toxic metals such as Mercury, Lead and Zinc.

According to a UNEP report, remedial measures are required to face out pollutant heavy metals which experts believe to be threatening the marine environment. The report recommends that member countries come up with better environmental policies that would help reduce usage and disposal of pollutants.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


By Charles Ogallo

World Governments have unveiled a historic treaty to tackle pollutant heavy metal Mercury that is threatening Marine Ecosystem.

The Global treaty on the poisonous pollutant mercury was agreed by environment ministers at the end of the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) Governing Council held from 16th -20th in Nairobi ,Kenya.

The landmark decision, taken by over 140 countries, sets the stage for the lifting of a major health threat from the lives of hundreds of millions of people especially those living along the coastlines.

Governments unanimously decided to launch negotiations on an international mercury treaty to deal with world - wide emissions and discharges of a pollutant that threatens the health of millions, from fetuses and babies to small - scale gold miners and their families.

Achim Steiner, UN Under - Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "UNEP has, for some seven years, coordinated and contributed to an intense scientific and policy debate on how best to deal with the issue of mercury. Today the world's environment ministers, armed with the full facts and full choices, decided the time for talking was over - the time for action on this pollution is now".

They also agreed that the risk to human health and the environment was so significant that accelerated action under a voluntary Global Mercury Partnership is needed whilst the treaty is being finalized.

"I believe this will be a major, confidence - building boost for not only the chemicals and health agenda but right across the environmental challenges of our time from biodiversity loss to climate change," added Mr Steiner.

Of the around 6,000 tonnes of mercury entering the environment annually, some 2,000 tonnes comes from power stations and coal fires in homes.

According to Mr. Steiner, the toxin In the atmosphere or released down river systems, can travel hundreds and thousands of miles.

’As climate change melts the Arctic, mercury trapped in the ice and sediments is being re-released back into the oceans and into the food chain” UNEP boss said.

Meanwhile eating advisories relating to fish such as tuna operate in many countries targeted at those at risk including pregnant mothers.

Scientists and the NGO Sharkproject are now also flagging yet another cause for concern? the increased consumption of shark meat in some parts of the world.

By some estimates these foods contain up to 40 times more mercury than recommended food safety limits and perhaps a great deal more.

Negotiation for a new global treaty to control mercury pollution set to begin this year has also been endorsed by the new U.S government.

The Bush administration had opposed legally binding measures to control mercury, despite broad support among a majority of countries in the UNEP Governing Council.

The Obama administration has reversed the former U.S. position on limiting mercury pollution worldwide.

"The Obama administration has clearly shown a new day has dawned for U.S. leadership and engagement with the rest of the world," said Michael Bender, director of the U.S.-based Mercury Policy Project, and a coordinator of the international Zero Mercury Working Group.

Among the 120 other countries that have expressed support for a legally binding agreement on mercury are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland and Uruguay.

Environmental groups from the United States and around the world applauded the U.S. policy change.

The Nairobi meeting also reached a eight - point partnership plan aimed at tackling the toxic heavy metal Mercury which includes:

- Boosting the world - wide capability for nations to safely store stockpiled mercury
- Reducing the supply of mercury from for example primary mining of the heavy metal
- Carrying out awareness rising of the risks alongside projects to cut the use of mercury in artisanal mining where an estimated 10 million miners and their families are exposed
- Reducing mercury in products such as thermometers and high - intensity discharge lamps to processes such as some kinds of paper - making and plastics production.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

World urged to reduce usage of Highly toxic Metal mercury .

By Charles Ogallo

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has urged world environment ministers meeting this week from February 16-20 in Nairobi, Kenya to adopt a strategy to curb the use of the highly toxic metal mercury.

Mercury is a heavy metal whose highly toxic compounds propagated notably by the production of coal, certain kinds of plastics and improper disposal of fluorescent light bulbs -- poison millions of people worldwide.

According to Achim Steiner, the UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, the world's environment ministers will use the Nairobi meeting take a landmark decision to lift a global health threat from the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people.

Fish-eating is the first source of exposure to toxic metal Mercury among humans. The effects of mercury ingestion include damage to the brain, kidney and lungs.

Steiner said a policy framework drafted after seven years of extensive research would be submitted to the ministers.

"It covers reducing demand in products and processes -- such as high intensity discharge vehicle lamps and the chlor-alkali industry -- and mercury in international trade," he said in a statement published in UNEP website.

"Other elements include reducing emissions to the atmosphere and cleaning contaminated sites," Steiner added.

Of the around 6,000 tonnes of mercury entering the environment annually, some 2,000 tonnes comes from power stations and coal fires in homes, he said.

"In the atmosphere or released down river systems, the toxin can travel hundreds and thousands of miles," the statement said.

As climate change melts the Arctic, mercury trapped in the ice and sediments is being re-released back into the oceans and into the food chain, UNEP said.

The statement said that UNEP and governments had identified a wide range of products and processes offering cost-effective and safe alternatives.

"A clear and unequivocal vision of a low mercury future needs to be set. This will trigger innovation and an ever greater array of cost effective alternatives," Steiner said.

More than 100 world environment ministers are due to gather in Nairobi for the UNEP's annual governing council meeting.