The controversy over industrial-scale sand mining off the Coast of Kwale by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has deepened after the county government denied authorising it.
The harvesting is being carried out by a Dutch company contracted by the ports authority which is using the sand for the construction of the Sh.40 billion second Kipevu Oil Terminal, in Mombasa.
The County Executive for Land and Environment, Ms. Saum Beja said they were not even aware about the activity that has been vehemently opposed by many due to its socio-economic and environmental effects.
Beja was speaking from her Kwale town office where she claimed they were in the dark as far as the matter was concerned because they had not been consulted by either KPA or the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
“We have no clue of what is happening because neither KPA nor NEMA has sent us notification in regard to the matter,” she said.
She added that the county government was also against the sea sand harvesting and had not authorized it. This comes amidst a barrage of protests by residents and other stakeholders among them fishermen, tour operators,hoteliers and beach operators.
On Tuesday, more than 200 fishermen and fish vendors from Tiwi in Matuga Sub-County protested over the sand harvesting,saying it will damage fish breeding grounds hence push them out of business.
Beja said that they are totally opposed to the activities by KPA in the region because it did not follow the correct
procedures such as conducting the social and environmental impact assessment.
“The assessment was done at Kipevu and Port Ritz yet these are not the areas the sand is being extracted from. There was also no consultation with stakeholders many of who rely on the sea for their livelihoods,” she said, adding that the harvesting is also immensely affecting aquatic life.
According to her, the county had already written a letter to KPA expressing its displeasure over the issue which it is yet to be responded to. She however, said the county will work with other stakeholders in resolving the matter even as she challenged NEMA to ensure a proper environmental impact assessment is carried out in the area.
Beja also said that the county was never involved in the controversial compensation of local fishermen who were allegedly paid Sh.16 million by KPA during the construction of phase one of the Kipevu terminal.
KPA came under heavy criticism during its first meeting with local stakeholders who accused it of engaging in sea sand harvesting in the county to expand its operations without proper consultations as required by environmental laws.
It was resolved during the stormy meeting at Diani that a smaller committee comprising representatives of the various stakeholders be formed to negotiate with KPA and come up with the way forward.
The collection of sand from the sea which started a month ago in Tiwi and Waa areas has been blamed for choking and killing marine life besides putting the future of tourism in the region, at stake.
By Shaban Omar/James Muchai