Residents living near Manga Ridge situated at the border of Kisii and Nyamira counties are worried about their historical gem which is fast losing its appeal owing to human activities.
Popularly known as Emanga, the historical site is a significant natural resource to the residents due to its potential of becoming a tourist attraction if protected from human encroachment through mining.
The residents acknowledge the fading beauty of the 100 acres site which separates Nyamira and Kisii at the border of Kitutu Masaba and Kitutu Chache constituencies respectively, with the former taking the top and the later the lower side.
All that is left of the site currently is a deserted area except for a few children herding livestock, and miners busy extracting rock and murram.
Litter from soft drinks and packets of snacks prove that the site was once a beehive of activities to revelers.
Traders at the nearby Esaba town in Matororo village, Kemera ward decry reduced business compared to previous years due to diminishing attraction and impact of Covid-19 that has worsened the situation.
According to Benson Mokono, the number of local tourists, video shooting of church choirs, families and couples who visited the ridge to behold its beauty or refresh have reduced drastically thanks to its fading appearance.
Mokono says many people who took time to scale its steep, rocky and ragged 5 km cliff for purposes of physical exercises or mere relaxation are hardly seen nowadays because stepping stones and those to hold onto have been destroyed in the mining process making it difficult to climb.
Therefore the residents now want the two County Governments to preserve it before it is completely destroyed.
One Samuel Miyogo wants the area immediately fenced and infrastructure including roads and electricity connected to retain the fascinating history so that businesses can pick after the Covid-19 pandemic which he says has led to many arrests in the area.
Rose Nyanchama who has ran a vegetables kiosk in the area for 13 years says things have changed and Covid-19 global pandemic has even made matters worse.
“If this tourist site is preserved we will benefit and will not need any government stipends while both levels of governments will get revenue from taxes,” says Nyanchama.
A hotel industry investor at Motemomwamu village in Kemera Ward, Humprey Moseti says the location is a prime place to invest but its poor infrastructure is a sure turn away to many potential developers.
He says anyone willing to put up a shelter property in the area would easily get land and clientele if road network is done and the site, which to many is a refreshment spot, shrine, entertainment and administrative area is preserved.
Regional Mining officer for Kisii and Nyamira Mr. Henry Kurgat confirms that the mining activities are illegal and their office has requested National Environment Management Authority to issue a stop order.
Kurgat adds there is a case in court pitting the Catholic Diocese and the community concerning ownership of the scenic site.
Kisii County Director of Environment and Natural Resources Mr. Henry Obwocha says the activities at the ridge are artisanal because it is extraction of rock material and murram for development purposes which is assisting residents to eke a living.
“However the artisan work is not yet regulated but we have advised them to form groups and register with the government so that we can assist them with excavators among other tools that will make their work easier and safer,” Obwocha explains.
He says there are plans to coordinate with the Mining office, Geologists, NEMA and Department of Occupational, safety and health services to find a lasting solution to the matter although Covid19 has slowed the process.
He adds that the most urgent issue of safety has been handled including closing some dangerous quarries and so far the area has not recorded any casualties due to collapsed pits.
By Clinton Nyamumbo and Jane Naitore