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Kenyan historical sites threatened by sea waves

Written by editor

Two popular historical sites at the Kenya coast are in danger of falling into the Indian Ocean due to soil erosion on the shoreline.

Two popular historical sites at the Kenya coast are in danger of falling into the Indian Ocean due to soil erosion on the shoreline.

The iconic Fort Jesus which was built by the Portuguese in 1593 in the port city of Mombasa is at risk of collapsing into the sea due to erosion triggered by raging sea waves.

In 2011, Fort Jesus was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, and was highlighted as one of the most outstanding and well preserved examples of the 16th century Portuguese military fortifications.
A large part of the area at the top of the cliff bordering the fort is loosely chipping off as a result of ferocious sea waves hitting the cliff for centuries.

Early this year, the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) had warned that the historical building might be wiped out of the world map if a seawall was not urgently built to stop seawaters from reaching the foundation of the fort.

Last year, the famous fort attracted more than 100,000 local and international visitors.

On the other hand, another historical site Vasco Da Gama pillar which was built in the seaside tourist town of Malindi by Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama in 1498 is also under threat of falling into the sea due to ferocious waves.

The monument might cave in since the rock it sits on has developed huge cracks.

However, NMK Coast region assistant director Athman Hussein said the Government has earmarked Ksh100 million for the construction of a seawall to protect the historical building Fort Jesus from falling into the Ocean.

Mr Hussein said the Government this financial year has allocated KSh100 million for protecting the fort against erosion.

He explained that the funds will be used for the construction of a seawall to shield the cliff in which the fort sits on from being struck by sea waves.

Part of the funds, he added, would be spent on works to strengthen the foundation of the building as well as preventing the cliff from caving in.

“The Government has intervened through a funding of Ksh100 million in a bid to contain erosion posing danger to Fort Jesus,” he said.
“For centuries, sea waves have been pounding the lower part of the cliff thereby threatening the existence of the historical building,” he explained.

Mr Hussein said the seawall project will take off once the National Treasury releases the funds.

On the other hand, Mr Hussein added that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) had funded a study on the historical site at a cost of Ksh2 million.

Findings of the study will help NMK come up with drawings and designs of the proposed seawall for it to last longer.

“UNESCO wants a study to be carried out before the construction of the seawall and rehabilitation works to prevent affecting the fort’s authenticity,” he explained.

The NMK official said the study will take six months, adding that its findings will play a role in protecting the world heritage site.
Malindi Museums senior curator Swaleh Ghazal said Sh50 million is required for the strengthening of the foundation of the pillar to prevent it from falling into the sea.

The curator said the funds would be spent on repairing the cracks near the pillar to protect it from sea waves.

Part of the funds, he added, will be used for the construction of sea wave breakers to prevent the waves from hitting the pillar’s foundation.
“Sea waves have been striking the rock which holds the pillar for many years while erosion on the shoreline have made matters worse,” he said.
“We are appealing to the Government and well-wishers to help us with Ksh50 million to repair the damage caused by sea to save the iconic monument from being erased from the world map,” he added.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Kilifi County chairman Philip Chai said the pillar is the face of Malindi as it features prominently in tourism information brochures about the town.
The KAHC official asked the Government to come to the rescue of the monument, saying it has been attracting tourists from United Kingdom, the US, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands and Switzerland among others.

“History scholars from around the world some of whom have written books about the monument visit the pillar together with their students,” he said.

“The Government should urgently fund the repair of the rock supporting the pillar,” he added.