Proposed projects for the delta

The Tana River Delta is under serious threat from a range of development projects.

River deltas are known for being fragile, dynamic and extremely rich and important wetland systems, flooding in times of good rain and later drying out again. Therefore, any small amount of playing with the hydrological systems will upset the delicate natural balance and wreak havoc on the ecosystem, spelling the end of the delta.

Sugarcane plantations - Mumias and Mat International

In June 2008, Mumias were granted a licence to turn the wetland into sugarcane plantations for sugar production and “eco-friendly” bio-fuels.  The Tana River Delta conservation lobby took the issue to the High Court to try to halt the decision. However, in June 2009, Kenya’s High Court ruled in favour of the developers on a technicality, with costs. Now the government has given tenure rights and ownership of 40,000ha of Delta land to TARDA (Tana River Development Authority), ostensibly to grow rice and maize as a response to Kenya’s recent drought and food shortage. Many local residents have been evicted from their homelands as a result.  Read their story (application/pdf, 104.2 kB, info).

A second sugar company, Mat International, is in the process of acquiring over 30,000ha of land in Tana Delta and another 90,000ha in adjacent Districts. The company has not carried out any environmental and social impact assessment.

Biofuel farms - Beford Biofuels Inc.

Bedford Biofuels Inc, a multinational company based in Canada, is seeking for a 45 year lease agreement on 65,000 ha of land in Tana River District to transform it into biofuel farms, mainly growing Jatropha curcas. The land is currently owned by five local group ranches. All of this land is either in or adjacent to the delta. A significant percentage of the local community members are not in support of this project  and during 2011 there have been on-going wrangles to try and get the project stopped while others want it to continue. A key argument in wanting to stop it is that jatropha has been shown to fail as an economically viable crop in East Africa. Furthermore that as a biofuel, the aim of which is to reduce carbon emissions, in fact the process of producing it releases more carbon than would be reduced in burning it instead of fossil fuels.

Read more on the use of Jatropha as a biofuel

Titanium extraction - Tiomin Kenya Ltd

Extraction of Titanium from the sand dunes of the delta has been proposed by Tiomin Kenya Ltd, a company which was originally incorporated in Canada, but now the local subsidiary has been bought by the Chinese. The Tiomin Company is set to operate in Kwale and Msambweni districts on the south coast of Kenya. The Tana Delta was identified to have huge titanium deposits which could augment Tiomin’s Kwale production. The company is in discussions with the local government authorities at the Tana Delta.

Fruit and vegetable crops

'Rumours' of proposals for Kenya to lease the Gulf-state of Qatar 40,000 hectares of land to grow fruit and vegetables in return for funding a new £2.4 billion port in Lamu have been heard but nothing can be substantiated on this though from what is known  16,200 hectares of this land lies in the Tana River Delta. The plans to construct the port in Lamu are still on.

Next page: Measuring the impact of development projects

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