Coastal heritage sites under threat from sea erosion

The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) has sounded the alarm over heritage sites at risk of being lost to the sea because of coastal flooding and erosion.

NMK Director-General Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia said that extreme tidal waves caused by a warming planet are putting iconic and historical sites along the shoreline at great risk.

Dr. Kibunjia observed that historical sites which are also the country’s greatest tourist attractions are under threat from coastal erosion that is chipping away at platforms that have supported them for ages.

He said many cultural and heritage sites in the coastal counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu are increasingly at risk from coastal hazards due to sea-level rise occasioned by climate change.

Dr. Kibunjia said climate change is the biggest potential threat to natural world heritage sites which he said number around 1,000 across the globe and that Kenya was no exception.

He said natural world heritage sites are not just iconic places with exceptional nature, they also provide benefits that contribute to human well-being and prosperity.

The NMK DG spoke to the press in Mombasa when he opened a two-week Disaster Risk Training workshop for NMK staff drawn from across the coastal region and community members living around heritage sites.

He said heritage sites and landmarks like the Siyu forte in Lamu, Jumba La Mtwana (the large house of the slave) in Kilifi and the Shimoni slave caves and Kongo mosque both in Kwale are all at risk of being lost to the sea because of coastal erosion.

The NMK boss highlighted the losses to the tourism industry should the historical and ancient sites fall victim to a warming planet.

He said they are seeking funds from the National Treasury and partners interested in the conservation and preservation of historical monuments in rehabilitating heritage sites facing perilous future.

He said the NMK, the state corporation that manages museums, sites and monuments requires about Sh.350 million to construct seawalls around Siyu forte, Shimoni slave cave and Jumla La Mtwana.

“We are doing everything possible to fortify the historical and cultural sites along the coastline to ensure they are not washed away by strong floods and soil erosion and preserved for the sake of posterity,” he said.

He revealed that the NMK has approached the European Union (EU) which is funding blue economy projects for funds towards conservation and preservation efforts.

Dr. Kibunjia at the same time said NMK is liaising with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) to have the Gede Ruins in Kilifi declared as a World Heritage centre for its outstanding universal value.

“We are pushing to have the Gede ruins, a medieval Swahili-Arab coastal settlement and a historical and archaeological site near the Indian Ocean in Kilifi enlisted as a world heritage site for its historical significance,” he said.


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