The Kenya Ports Authority's plans to revamp maritime trade in Lake Victoria have been dealt a blow after swelling water levels consumed jetties around Lake Victoria.
The government had banked its hopes of transforming the region’s economy on a vibrant blue economy fostered by increased maritime trade and transport.
Now, however, this is turning into a pipe dream, with KPA admitting it has been forced to reconsider its strategies after the lake consumed jetties around the lake.
Among the jetties that are now completely submerged are the Homa Bay, Mbita and Kendu ones, with the Bondo area also adversely affected.
A senior KPA official who did not want to be quoted as he is not authorised to speak to the press told The Standard that even the recently renovated port had been affected by nature’s wrath.
The development is a major setback for maritime trade, with the authority now compelled to draw a new plan for the affected piers.
“When we developed the initial plan for the jetties, we did not anticipate that the waters would reach the point they have reached,” said the officer.
He added that the authority would now have to wait until July when the Budget is released before it can start planning on how to reconstruct the piers.
At the Kendu Bay pier, the road leading to the jetty as well as the pier itself are now completely submerged. Homa Bay, too, can no longer be used by residents.
Before the water levels rose, several stakeholders had been looking forward to revamping transport around the lake, with both the private and public sectors showing commitment to the blue economy.
A water bus company is among those that had introduced water buses to ply the new routes that had been idle for several years.
The Kenya Maritime Authority had also intensified patrols to ensure maritime safety is maintained.
But now, according to the KPA official, the process of revamping transport in the lake will have to be delayed.
“When the budget is released in July, we will see our allocation so that we can plan on how to rebuild new jetties,” said the official.
According to the experts, Lake Victoria's water levels have continued to rise, with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute saying it has risen beyond two metres.
“The waters of Lake Victoria are swelling as a result of climate change. Several rivers are also having high levels of water that is draining into the lake,” said Christopher Aura, a scientist with the institute.
The researcher said they are yet to conduct a thorough study on the lake, but had compared the current swelling levels to another study the State agency conducted on Lake Naivasha, which experienced a similar rise.
The swelling waters have affected almost the entire Nyanza region in areas close to the lake, with homes submerged and landing sites destroyed.
The worst affected area, however, is the Nyando region where several villages have been completely submerged. They include Nduru, Kadidi and Kamira. In Kisumu, several families have been displaced in Dunga and Nyalenda areas.
While rising water levels have dealt a blow to efforts to develop maritime trade in the region, questions have hung over the opening of the recently renovated port in Kisumu.
An official working at the port said huge waves have been hitting sections of the facility, and expressed fears it would soon be submerged.
The port is at the centre of transforming the region’s economy and hopes are high that it will be a game changer in the quest to create a profitable blue economy.
Experts say the Kisumu port forms an important component of an inter-modal supply chain along the Central and Northern Corridor linking Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports.