Kwale County denies authorising sand harvesting amid protests

KWALE, KENYA: The County Government of Kwale has denied ever-authorising sand mining in the Diani ocean waters.

This latest move has deepened controversy over industrial-scale sand mining off Diani beach by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).

The harvesting is being carried out by a foreign company contracted by KPA, which is using the sand for the construction of the Sh40 billion second Kipevu Oil Terminal, in Mombasa.

According to Kwale County Executive for Land and Environment, Ms. Saum Beja, they were not even aware of the activity that has been vehemently opposed by many due to its socio-economic and environmental effects.

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Beja who spoke from her Kwale office claimed they were in the dark as far as the matter was concerned because either KPA or the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) had not consulted them.

“We have no clue of what is happening because neither KPA nor NEMA has sent us notification in regards to the matter,” she said.

She added that the county government was also against the sea sand harvesting and had not authorised it. This comes amidst a barrage of protests by residents and other stakeholders among them fishermen, tour operators, hoteliers and beach operators.

Last week, 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 oppose activities by KPA in the region because it did not follow the correct procedures such as conducting the social and environmental impact assessment.

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“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 would 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 Sh16 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.

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Kenya Ports AuthorityKwale CountyKipevu Oil Terminal