Chinese firm loses permit to operate Malava quarries after violating environment laws

Juma Mutanyi outside his house, which was destroyed by a rock from a nearby quarry in Malava. The rock also hit a sheep and destroyed a water tank. [Duncan Ocholla, Standard]

A Chinese company has lost the permit to operate two quarries in Makwabuye and Butali in Malava sub-county for violating environmental laws. 

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) revoked the licence after residents' persistent complains of pollution. 

The Kakamega County Environmental Committee and Nema visited the quarries last Friday and stopped the operations until the firm complied with all requirements.

County Nema Director Simon Tanui said Jiangxi Zhongmei Engineering Company had been directed to stop blasting in the two sites.

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“We visited the two quarries and the Geology Department has withdrawn the licence because the damage is abnormal,” he said.

Mr Tanui said the blasting would resume when the firm adhered to the environmental management plan, established a quarry pit rehabilitation and an after-use plan, observed the riparian reserve, ensured the quarry cliffs were securely fenced and ended undercutting or tunnelling.

“We have also instructed the firm to assess the buildings surrounding the quarry to ascertain their vulnerability to blasting and compensate the victims,” he said.

Kakamega County Environmental Committee Chairman Swaka Limera said the case should be thoroughly investigated.

“Nema, the Mining and Geology Department and those who signed the agreement must be accountable. I am surprised that no public participation was done, as dictated by the Constitution,” Mr Limera said.

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The area member of the county assembly, Leornard Kasaya, said residents were not consulted concerning the project.

“A copy of the environmental impact assessment report must be made available for perusal and a baseline survey conducted around the quarry. What is the safety of the people living 20m to 500m away from the quaries?” he asked.

Isaac Mutanyi, a resident, said the blasting had caused boreholes to dry up as the excavation activities interfered with the water table.

“During blasting, a bang follows as dust is blown all over for close to 20 minutes. Blasting takes more than five hours to end. Sometimes there are successive blasts, causing tremors. The explosives used are very strong and should not be used here,” Mr Mutanyi said.

He added that elderly and people with disabilities usually scampered for safety when a blast occurred.

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Adelaide Juma said her mother was hit by a stone from the quarry and is crippled because of lack of treatment. “We were inside our house when a huge rock came through the roof and hit my mother’s leg. The stone has never been removed,” she explained.

Huge rock

In another incident, 80-year-old Miriam Shikuku's house was destroyed by a stone that killed five of her chicken. "We have adopted a hide-and-seek approach here. Each time the alarm goes off, even our poultry and livestock take cover," Ms Shikuku said.

Residents said school walls had cracks and at least seven houses in the village had been destroyed beyond repair.

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ChineseMakwabuyeButaliMalavaNemaNational Environment Management AuthorityJiangxi Zhongmei Engineering CompanyKakamega County Environmental Committee