The State has been urged to shift focus to the stalled construction of the country’s fishing port at Shimoni in Kwale.
Coast leaders want the national government to breathe new life into the fishing port that is expected to give the industry a shot in the arm.
The construction of the port is part of the State’s efforts to tap into the blue economy. It is also expected to have a positive impact on trade and economic growth, large-scale exploitation of the fish industry bolstered by a ready market and value addition, which will spur the creation of special economic zones.
With the feasibility study for the Shimoni port having been completed, Coast political leaders now want the national government to revive the plans to put up a fishing facility in the South Coast that will create jobs and wealth.
This comes a few days after President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned the first berth at the Lamu Port in May.
So far, the government has constructed the initial three berths at the Lamu Port at over Sh40 billion. The three berths have a total length of 1,200 metres or 400 metres long each and are deeper than those at the Mombasa Port.
In Shimoni, the construction of the fish port was given the green light by President Kenyatta when he toured the area in September 2019, but so far nothing has been done.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) later initiated stakeholders’ meetings on environmental impact mitigation and public participation even as it declared readiness to implement the project.
Last week, Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya, who was among the officials in the region who attended the operationalisation of the new Lamu Port, said he expected the construction of Shimoni Port to be fast-tracked.
“As Lamu Port begins working, I look forward to having the Shimoni Port initial works to start soon,” Mvurya said.
Other governors who attended the Lamu Port commissioning were Fahim Twaha (Lamu), Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Major (Rtd) Dhadho Godhana of Tana River.
Lunga Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani, after a meeting with Deputy President William Ruto at a Kilifi hotel this month, claimed that funds meant for the construction of Shimoni Port could have been transferred to the Kisumu Port.
“I am afraid funds for the construction of Shimoni Port may have been used for the expansion of Kisumu Port following the handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga,” he said.
But Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata said the government will embark on the construction of the port soon since it was a priority project. “Plans are underway to start its construction.”
Last October, KPA conducted a public stakeholders meeting for the environmental social impact assessment study in Shimoni area.
In the meeting attended by political, administration and opinion leaders from Kwale, a raft of measures were recommended that will be applied to ensure smooth implementation of the project while minimizing environmental degradation.
KPA’s Principal Environment Officer Daniel Githinji assured the participants of the authority’s commitment to ensuring the success of the project without disrupting their economic livelihoods.
One of the key objectives of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment study is to systematically assess the value of the benefits of a project against the environmental and social concerns, and equally provide measures to reduce the magnitude of the impacts.
The port will be the premier fishing port in the country. Its infrastructure will include a multi-purpose berth that will incorporate fish and conventional cargo handling, cold storage facilities, reefer stations and fish processing plants.
The existing jetty will also be rehabilitated to continue serving the local fishermen and support tourism.
KPA’s head of projects development and management William Tenay said the project would be undertaken in phases. The new jetty will be dedicated to handling fish products as required by international standards.
KPA said it has been advised by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to conduct a Heritage Impact Assessment for the conservation of archaeological and cultural sites found in the area.
These include Shimoni caves, which historians say were used to detain slaves. There are also old office buildings in the area that still stand today in what was once the capital of Kenya Protectorate in Shimoni.
The Heritage Impact Assessment outlines the historic or archaeological significance of a building or landscape within its wider setting. It outlines proposed works, an assessment of their impact on the building or landscape, and a mitigation strategy. During the meeting chaired by Lunga Lunga Deputy County Commissioner Hussein Alas Hussein, the residents were urged to embrace the project.
“The state has no intention of killing the economy of its citizens as claimed but simply to bring forth this project as a value addition to your commercial activities,” Hussein said. Nema County Director for Kwale Godfrey Wafula rooted for the conservation of corals during the construction phase as fishing and farming continue.