The livelihood of more than 5,000 youths engaged in sand harvesting business at Mai Mahiu area of Naivasha sub-county hangs on the balance after the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) banned the trade.
The decision has also affected other businesses in the busy trading center which either directly or indirectly rely on the sand harvesting trade, including transport, food business among other businesses.
Through a public notice, NEMA Director General, Geoffrey Wahungu banned sand harvesting with immediate effect, citing the recent flooding that has had adverse effects on the environment in the area.
Wahungu said the ban would affect the entire Mai Mahiu-Narok road and adjacent areas that have been flooding for the last one month following the heavy rains pounding the areas.
“The ban affects stretch from Mai Mahiu to Narok town, 10Kms radius on either side of the road”, said the director in part of the notice.
Wahungu however, assured the affected persons that the ban will be lifted once a comprehensive strategic environmental impact assessment on sand harvesting effects in the area was done and found positive.
Following the ban, NEMA has appealed to the stakeholders to cooperate with the new directive warning that an enforcement force was on the ground and that actions will be taken against those flouting the ban.
Meanwhile residents in the area have applauded the ban, saying that it will avert deaths among the sand harvesters who have been affected after the quarries cave-in following the heavy rains.
Led by a local leader Joseph Ole Kishau, the locals said the ban was timely, saying it will help save the environment that has been degraded following indiscriminate harvesting of sand in the area.
Kishau who is also the chairman of Namucha residents association said initially the process of sand-harvesting was undertaken in a controlled manner but lately have been invaded by unscrupulous groups who have been scooping sand all over without following the laid down procedures.
Former Nakuru County Council Chairman, John Murigo however, opposed the ban, saying it will affect the livelihoods of many people who either directly or indirectly rely on the trade.
He said NEMA should have consulted widely before taking the decision, saying many youths who have now been rendered jobless may result to crime to survive.
By Esther Mwangi