The residents of Mjanaheri village in Kilifi County have called upon the county administration to formulate a policy on sand harvesting to regulate the business.
The policy, they said, would also end perennial conflicts between owners of sand harvesting quarries, transporters, loaders and a local cooperative society that they said had monopolised the business.
The residents, some of who said they own sand harvesting quarries in the area, complained that they were being forced to join the sole cooperative society, which they said was not interested in the welfare of locals.
Speaking to journalists at Mjanaheri village on Tuesday, the residents, who are members of various community based organisations (CBOs), said although they owned the quarries, those benefitting from the business were tycoons from other areas working in cahoots with the cooperative society.
They urged the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to issue their organisations with licences to harvest sand and end the monopoly.
“Although some of us own the quarries, we are not benefitting from the business as the cooperative society and some government officials are exploiting us, hence the need for a policy allowing many players in the trade,” said Mohamed Mbitha, a member of the Mjanaheri Sand Harvesters (CBO).
Mbitha said this at a time when the Kilifi County Environment Committee visited the quarries to assess the status of the numerous sand harvesting sites with a view to getting a first-hand account ahead of a meeting with all stakeholders to be held at a later date.
Mbitha said the locals were being exploited by tycoons who he said were using short cuts to “harvest where they have not reaped” as the locals watched, since the only cooperative that would assist them was “sleeping with the enemy.”
“We also want to be given licences to venture into the business so as to end this exploitation from people who do not care,” Mbitha, who was accompanied by scores of residents, said.
Barisa, a resident of Mjanaheri, urged the County Government of Kilifi and NEMA to issue business and sand harvesting licences to organisations that would prove to be ready to adhere to all laid down conditions.
“We want every organisation that has met all requirements to be issued with licences instead of forcing everybody to work under only one umbrella,” he said.
The County Geologist, George Shoka who was leading the County Environmental Committee on a fact-finding mission of all sand harvesting quarries in the area said the county government was already in the process of formulating a policy to regulate the business.
While conceding that there had been conflicts regarding the harvesting of river sand in the area and said the county government, through the Department of Environment, was addressing the issues to avoid an escalation.
“There have been violent confrontations regarding this business, and that is why we are on a fact-finding mission to establish the facts before we can come up with a way forward,” he told journalists.
He said the policy was still at the drafting stage and that it would be presented to the County Executive Committee (CEC) for approval before being submitted to the county assembly for legislation.
“Magarini Sub County is the only area in the county with high quality river sand, hence the need for a policy to sustainably harvest the commodity to avoid duplication and a damage to the environment,” he said.
A tour of some of the sand harvesting quarries revealed a sorry state of environmental degradation, with many of the quarries remaining bare.
The roads leading to the quarries were also in a state of disrepair and loaders and transporters urged the county government to fix them.
By Emmanuel Masha