Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
colbartn.gif (4535 octets)

Coastline instability in East Africa - mitigating the impacts

Coastal erosion is a serious environmental problem for several coastal and island countries in the western Indian Ocean, including Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. In many places the rate of coastline retreat and the resulting environmental degradation and economic loss, is so rapid as to be alarming. Although natural degradative processes have occurred since the formation of the oceans they can be exacerbated by human actions some of which could be abated with an appropriate coastal management system. Since tourism is a major foreign-exchange earner for east African countries, particularly Kenya, and since coastal hotels and associated amenities such as beaches are a major attraction to the tourist trade, coastal erosion is a serious threat to both national and local economies.

In east Africa (initially Kenya & Tanzania) the work of UNESCO’s Coastal Regions and Small Islands unit (CSI) is being implemented through a pilot project on sustainable coastal development. While the Kenyan Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) in Mombasa, with the support of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, is spearheading studies aimed at dividing the Kenyan shoreline into stable areas and areas vulnerable to coastal erosion, CSI (through the UNESCO Nairobi Office) in co-operation with Kenyan and Tanzanian scientists has conducted surveys on the extent and socio-economic impacts of coastal erosion in these countries.

The next step was to organise a high-profile national seminar for Kenya to which representatives of major stakeholders would be invited. The aim was to review current knowledge on coastal erosion, including the results of the recent studies, and to consider appropriate action that could be taken by various interested bodies to mitigate the impact of coastal erosion. To alert the local population a public awareness campaign was launched on radio and television in Kenya and Tanzania. This was organised by CSI in co-operation with IOC, the UNESCO Communication Sector and the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. IOC supported the campaign by providing three video-films on coastal subjects including one on coastal erosion in Kenya, which were broadcast on national TV. Radio which reaches more people, particularly in rural areas, was broadcast in the national language, Swahili .

The Seminar

After a series of consultation meetings held during the spring of 1997 between the UNESCO Nairobi Office and representatives of relevant Government Ministries and Departments, a seminar on Sustainable Coastal Development through Integrated Planning and Management Focused on Mitigating the Impacts of Coastline Instability was held at Whitesands Hotel, Mombasa from 21st to 23rd June 1997.

Participants (about 160) included provincial and district Commissioners and their Heads of Departments; representatives of beach hotels, other property owners, tourist operators, coastal communities and fishermen, as well as those of relevant government ministries based in Nairobi, public universities and United Nations Agencies and Non-governmental organisations. During plenary sessions held on the first day, the following papers were presented and discussed:

The following day there were field trips. During the initial presentations and discussions and further discussions on the third day it became increasingly clear that the multi-institutional planning team headed by the Coast Development Authority (CDA), in existence in Kenya since 1994, should be strengthened. This team spearheads an Integrated Coastal Area Management (ICAM) process within the Kenyan coastal zone based on a pilot study site of the Nyali-Bainburi-Shanzu area in Mombasa, where several coastal management issues, including coastal erosion, have been addressed.

The seminar adopted the following recommendations:

This Seminar:

  1. Recommends to the Ministry of Land Reclamation, Regional and Water Development that the Coast Development Authority (CDA) be strengthened and empowered, through appropriate amendment of its Act, to vet, in collaboration with other relevant authorities, all forms of infrastructure development within its area of jurisdiction. In this regard, the hitherto ad hoc Coastal Management Steering Committee be legalized and established as a permanent body under CDA.
  2. Recommends to the Provincial Commissioner Coast Province that he undertakes steps necessary to repossess all public utility land and beach access roads that have been allocated to private developers and have them registered under the Land Perpetual Succession Act, CAP 286 of the Laws of Kenya.
  3. Urges all stakeholders within each contiguous coastal zone that in considering corrective measures for the protection of their properties, priority be given to collective concerted action rather than individual approaches. In this regard, the measures taken should ensure the proper conservation and management of the coastal environment, including beaches and related ecosystems, taking into account available scientific information and indigenous environmental conservation practices.
  4. Recommends to CDA that a strategic plan be set up for the development of the coastal zone as a guide to all planners and investors.
  5. Recommends to the CDA Coastal Management Steering Committee to develop, in co-operation with other relevant agencies, a code of conduct to guide developers and users of coastal resources within the coastal zone, as well as to review existing coastal management legislation with a view to improving them.
  6. Recommends that the Ministry of Land Reclamation, Regional and Water Development urgently explores possibilities and effective measures to increase the water supply of Mombasa town and its environs so as to stem the overexploitation of underground water that is leading to saltwater intrusion.
  7. Recommends to the coastal and island countries of the West Indian Ocean region to co-operate in all matters relating to Integrated Coastal Management (ICM).


Extracted and adapted from: UNESCO-Kenya National Seminar on Sustainable Coastal Development through Integrated Planning and Management Focused on Mitigating the Impacts of Coastline Instability (Whitesands Hotel, Mombassa, 23 - 25 June 1997). In: Bulletin, UNESCO Nairobi Office. January-June 1997, vol. 32 No.1, pp. 14-15.

For further information, contact:

P. Vitta, Director, UNESCO-Nairobi Office,
Fax.: +254 2215991


Fax: (+33-1) 45 68 58 08

  Introduction    Activities   Publications     word
Wise Practices   Regions   Themes