The Kwale County Beach Operators have decried the ongoing sand harvesting off the popular Diani beach by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and want it stopped immediately due to its negative environmental impact.
Led by a Trustee of Coast Beach Management Units (CBMU), Mgandi Kalinga, the operators also accused KPA of blatantly violating the rights of local communities by not compensating them for the effects of its activities in the region.
The compensation process was said to be infiltrated by cartels that benefitted along with their cronies at the expense of genuine beneficiaries.
The harvesting was being carried out by a Dutch company contracted by the Ports Authority which is using the sand for the construction of the Sh.40billion second Kipevu Oil Terminal.
The harvesting of sand from the country’s ocean beds has been in the news in recent years amidst protests by environmentalists and other stakeholders.
One of the most publicized cases involved China Road and Bridge Corporation which also harvested sand from South Coast for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Mombasa, before it was stopped following successful public petitions.
In a stakeholders meeting with KPA, participants questioned the circumstances under which the latest harvesting had resumed after it was stopped by the government through Transport Cabinet Secretary (CS), James Macharia.
The angry beach operators said that the project was harmful to aquatic life and was also damaging the Waa and Tiwi coral reefs.
“The side effects of this project far surpass the benefits. The harvesting is interfering with the marine ecosystem and we fear in future, the sandy beaches we have will no longer be there,” said Kalinga noting that the exercise posed a big threat to tourism and other sectors hence it must be stopped.
He added that uncontrolled removal of the sea sand would also compromise the integrity of Diani beach which has been voted as the best beach destination in Africa for five consecutive years.
Kalinga promised to stop at nothing in ensuring the sea is protected warning that its degradation would lead to loss of livelihoods of many locals whose economic activities revolved around marine resources like fish.
He asked Governor Salim Mvurya to intervene and save the prestigious Diani beach which has won the county many awards and recognition globally.
“We don’t know why the Governor is not responding to our many pleas to him to come to the rescue of the beach. Rather than keeping quiet, he and other local leaders should campaign for the protection of coastal beaches which are about to go into extinction due to human activities,” he said.
Finally, stakeholders agreed to the formation of a smaller committee comprising representatives of the various stakeholders who would negotiate with KPA and come up with the way forward.
By Shaban Omar/James Muchai