Ten years ago, Kipini village in Tana River County hosted one of the best spots where tourists and even senior government employees would go to relax.
At the centre of the village was Tana Lodge Hotel, which was surrounded by historical buildings next to the beach, where Tana River meets Indian Ocean.
It was a beautiful scenery built on top of hilly sand dunes, where one could sit on the storeys and watch fishermen race to the shores with their catch, tourists surfing and dolphins entertaining revellers towards sunset.
Mr Joseph Gachango was then managing director to more than 50 employees in the hotel, which would fetch them revenue in thousands of dollars.
Then one time the sea-levels rose and eroded the coastline. The tunnel of trees that once flanked the coastal roads died from salt poisoning and rotted by the roadside. Businesses corroded along with the coastline.
The great Tana River Lodge was pulled down into the sea alongside every desirable structure that ever was.
Out of nine cottages that stood in the quarter-acre piece of land that the lodge owned, only half of the structure was spared.
“This was one of the most beautiful tourist lodges in the region. Look at it now, the remains of eight lodges form part of the seashore’s stepping stones. Only one structure remained standing, but not for long,” said Mr Gachango.
This tragedy hit the local tourism industry hard, spelling a doom for the area’s economy. Activities that used to attract tourists also declined.
Residents now live in fear as the seawater levels continue to rise, making home structures weak and unsafe to live in.
In the past 10 years, more than 5,000 people have been displaced from their homes.
“Currently, you cannot dig a foundation for a house as we used to. Just a shallow dig and you start feeling the waterlogged soil. So we have changed how we build our structures,” said Mr Kasim Mwamba.
The sea waves have also been very violent. In less than seven years, they have swallowed more than 2.5 acres of land that used to be a settlement area.
Tana River County administration, however, is determined to change the sad tale by ensuring the building of a sea wall.
This forms part of a strategy that seeks to build resilience to climate change by improving natural ecosystems.
According to Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana, only a wall along the 76km coastline will save the village and other infrastructure from being swallowed by the ocean.
“Kipini needs a wall just like the one that was constructed in Tanzania. But our case requires something a bit different — not just for the sake of blocking seawater intrusion, but also to drain saline water back to the sea,” he said.
The administration has approached the World Bank, the United Nations Office for Project Services and the Global Environment Facility for funding of the wall project.
Various researchers have been invited to carry out tests along the coastline pending the recommendation of the type and design of wall required for Kipini.
In Mr Godhana’s view, the wall will incorporate scenic viewpoints, new cottages and public parks in push to revive tourism in the area.
Further, the governor noted that apart from the wall along the 72km coastline, the administration has also drawn a proposal to the World Bank for a port.
“We understand there is a port in Lamu. There is space for a mini-port in Kipini that can assist the Lamu and Mombasa ports. The Kipini port can handle small cargo ships and hence boost a robust economy in this area,” he said.
The county government is also planning to invest Sh100 million in the project that seeks to revive tourism in the area.