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Demand for stones pushes graves, houses to the edge

By Caroline chebet | Published Fri, July 21st 2017 at 00:00, Updated July 21st 2017 at 09:40 GMT +3
A hanging lone grave at Nyathuna village of Bahati, Nakuru on 20/7/2017. Graves and houses have been left hanging as a result of increased quarrying activities to meet the rising demand of building stones in the rapidly expanding town of Nakuru. Photo Caroline Chebet

NAKURU: A lone grave lies precariously on the edge of an abandoned quarry in Nyathuna village in Bahati, Nakuru.

Bordering the quarry and also perching on the edge is a beautiful house next to a lush green maize plantation.

Across a tiny footpath leading to the neighbouring homestead is a deep gulley - agricultural land-turned quarry that hosts workers eking out a living by excavating building stones.

“Business is good due to the many infrastructural developments in Nakuru town. The demand for construction stones is high and we reap big given the proximity of the town to the village,” John Ngenga, a resident of the area said.

Barely 100 metres from Nyathuna is JC village.

Toddler plays

Paul Ndegwa’s home sits dangerously on the edge of a quarry as a toddler plays outside the house, oblivious of the imminent danger.

The mining craze has left Ndegwa’s house and maize plantation sitting precariously. The people know that the region’s volcanic soil, characterised by poor load-bearing capacity, has led to the collapse of structures such as toilets.

This has not stopped workers from trying to strike ‘gold’.

The situation is replicated in almost all households in Bahati, where local residents have thrown caution to the wind and are rushing to ‘strike’ the gold beneath the surface.

“Accidents rarely occur as long as we are careful. Even children and animals have learned survival tactics,” Mr Ndegwa says. Bordering his homestead is another quarry next to another house.

Outside the home is a grave — also on the edge of a quarry.

Graves and homesteads that are unlucky enough to be on ‘precious’ stones are surrounded by steep walls of quarries.

The residents bank on regeneration or reclaiming of quarries. They say they can start farming again after levelling the quarries.

“After exhausting the stones, I will reclaim the quarry and plant potatoes, maize, and cassava. All I have to do is bring in a tractor to level the quarry into prime land again which I can start developing again,” Mr Ndegwa says.

Reclaim land

According to Mr Joseph Mukura, this has happened before and many residents have reclaimed the land.

“Although the activity is dangerous, most residents here have learnt the art of reclaiming the quarries by levelling and planting trees so as to regenerate the land. After a few years, someone can start developing the land,” Mr Mukura says.

Agricultural and residential areas being converted into quarries are some of the complaints that are reported as constituting poor land use and environmental degradation.

In a recent periodic report on land use released by the National Environmental Complaints Committee, quarrying and sand harvesting were some of the complaints listed as constituting improper land use.

Improper land use constitutes 12 per cent of all complaints handled by the committee and is among the top six other major problems.

“Sand harvesting and increased quarrying activities in residential and agricultural areas form part of the complaints,” the report says.

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