A railway line in a quarry. That is what I found at Ndarugo quarries where Nairobi and its environs mine building stones. What was a railway - about 50 meters - long doing in a quarry?
Quarries have moved on! They use technology to extract stones. The rail is where the stone-cutting machine rides on to ensure the stones are straight and to the predefined size.
The machine, which is electrically driven cuts stones which are then loaded into a waiting lorry.
This is far removed from the traditional quarry where explosives or brutal force is used to mine stones which are then shaped to size manually.
Ndarugo quarries lie between Thika and Ruiru, they are many, some “live“ while others are abandoned.
It looks like a profitable business but business is low. I saw only one lorry load on a Tuesday afternoon.
The place looks dry and arid and beyond stones nothing else, it seems can grow there.
The Ndarugo river is a silent reminder that despite aridity there is life.
Machine-cut stones are sold per piece while non-machine cut are sold per foot. Nearby, a few brave but anxious men and women prepare ballast and more building stones using bare hands.
A visit to these quarries completes the supply chain of one of the basic building raw materials. One curious question is who makes the money along the chain.
It seems with deforestation, building stones will become more expensive. Insecurity, more than weather forces us to use building stones.
Why not mud walls as in traditional society or plastic as is common in developed countries?
For now, it seems we are not in hurry to seek alternatives to buildings stones.
But it’s an exhaustible resource and soon or later the building industry will face its moment of truth.
Finally, is there any dream of rehabilitating these quarries once they run out of “minerals?”?
Haller Park in Bamburi, Mombasa is a good example. Why not turn these old quarries into dams for recreation and fishing?
With a chain of dams, this could be one of the most picturesque recreational areas on the outskirts of Nairobi. Aren’t all dreams valid?