As I walk through the narrow streets of Bangladesh, one of the largest informal settlements in Mombasa, Kenya, I am greeted by the overwhelming stench of rotting waste. Piles of garbage litter the alleys, and plastic waste is the most visible of them all. The once-pristine white sand beaches that Mombasa was once famous for have turned into dumping grounds for plastic waste.
Plastic pollution is a plague that is slowly suffocating Mombasa’s coastal waters, killing marine life, and affecting the livelihoods of fishermen and their families. It is a problem that is not only destroying the environment but also the lives of those who depend on it.
As I sit down with a fisherman, Omar, he tells me how difficult it has become to catch fish due to the high levels of plastic pollution in the waters. “We are forced to travel further and deeper into the sea to catch fish, which is more dangerous and time-consuming,” he says. “Our catch has decreased significantly, and we are barely making enough money to feed our families.”
The situation is worse for those who live closer to the coast. Ali, a resident of the Kwa Punda neighborhood, tells me how the plastic pollution is affecting his family’s health. “The smell is unbearable, and it’s causing respiratory problems for my children,” he says. “We cannot open our windows, and the heat is suffocating.”
The impact of plastic pollution is not just limited to the health and livelihoods of the people living in these settlements. It also affects the tourism industry, which is a significant source of revenue for the city. Tourists come to Mombasa to enjoy the beaches and the ocean, but the sight of plastic waste and the smell that comes with it drives them away.
Plastic pollution is a problem that requires a collective effort to solve. Governments, individuals, and companies must work together to find sustainable solutions. We must reduce our use of single-use plastics, recycle, and properly dispose of waste.
As I make my way out of the settlement, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation. But I am also hopeful. Hopeful that with education, awareness, and action, we can turn the tide on plastic pollution and restore the beauty and bounty of Mombasa’s coastal waters.
Let us act now before it’s too late.