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Climate change and coastal cities: the case of Mombasa, Kenya

This paper discusses the risks that the city of Mombasa faces from the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. The 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 authors propose measures needed to reduce the vulnerability of Mombasa’s population and economic base to climate change. These can be in terms of adaptation and mitigation.

Key points made:

  • 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.
  • There is a need to solve the problem of land ownership, to encourage the construction of planned settlements that makes it easy to provide basic services and reduce climate risks in unplanned settlements.
  • The Coastal Development Authority should develop a strategic plan to guide future development of the coastal city.
  • The city authority and government should encourage settlement in peri-urban space away from the ocean shores.
  • It is necessary to engage qualified architects to provide guidance to build structures that will accommodate future climatic conditions.
  • There is a need to improve the management and renovation of the city’s water and sanitation infrastructure to serve the increasing water demand.
  • The government, NGOs and local communities should collaborate to construct water reservoirs and apply appropriate land management practices.
  • The use of renewable energy at both household and industrial level should be promoted.
  • Existing district-level disaster surveillance and management committee needs to become proactive and focus more on disaster preparedness than on “after the event” relief and impacts management.
  • Diversification of economic activities, e.g. through the promotion of community-based seafood farming could be encouraged as an adaptation measure in suitable areas.

For all these measures to be implemented, support is needed from various government departments, city hall, civil society organisations and the general public. Appropriate capacity, both at the individual and institutional levels, and enforceable regulations and economic incentives are required. These depend on political will, funding and human capital.