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Locals seek fresh environmental audit on quarry

By Boniface Gikandi | Dec 31st 2021 | 3 min read

A section of Kandundu village in Murang’a County. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Stories of how quarrying changed the fortunes of residents of Kandundu in Murang’a have been told for many years.

Those who heard them may not know what the residents are going through and that they are complaining about environmental degradation threatening their homes. 

Some of the residents now claim they are affected by dust and their homes may collapse.

They said they fear their houses can collapse following increased quarrying activities as the demand for the cut stones from the quarry rises.

In the past month, some landowners have opted to dispose of their property to stone miners with many shelving the original plans of establishing retirement homes near Murang’a town.

With millions of shillings in circulation daily by buyers from as far as Isiolo, Meru and Laikipia the Kandundu area has been transformed for the better, ending the decades of desperation when it was a breeding ground for criminals.

In a petition dated November 15 to the Murang’a County Government, 64 residents said the dangerous quarrying excavations pose a threat to their houses and lives.

“The settlement in the locality poses the threat of likely collapse of houses, environmental and health hazards, air pollution and other related dangers,” read part of the petition copied to Murang’a County Commissioner, County Planning Office, Murang’a Municipality Board and Public Health Department.

In another petition to the County Assembly, dated November 19, David Thuo, Wilson Maina, Martha Njeri, Juliah Wanyi Maina and Annie Gathoni Mburu described the mining works as a health hazard saying dust was blown into their homes throughout the day and night.

They also said that dangerous mines created between their homes are not good for houses due to excessive vibration of the equipment.

“Following the threat on lives of the many residents, land was being sold cheaply and valuation of the property in the locality has also gone down substantially. The Municipal Board should demarcate quarry fields and residential sites,” read part of the petition.

Ms Njeri mobilised the community to resist expansion of the mining areas saying their homes are at risk of developing cracks and possibly collapsing due to the increased deep quarrying.

“We have petitioned the Murang’a County Government, The County Assembly of Murang’a, The Municipal Board and Nema for the review of the quarrying activities but our grievances have not been addressed,” said Njeri.

The quarrying started in 2018 after a Chinese investor showed interest in the area which provided an alternative for the long queues in the older Ndarugo quarries in Thika.

Njeri said majority of the public roads are likely to be destroyed.

Last year, the mines were temporarily closed by Nema and the Public Health Department after a man was electrocuted in one premise that did not have a secure fence.

Environmental expert Moses Ndugire said the area is experiencing conflicts between the quarry operators and the residents because of failure to follow established rules.

“The concerns are similar where there are quarries as the rogue operators use explosives in their activities and there are movements of trucks at night.

“We need a strictly enforced framework to end the chaotic scenes being experienced,” said Ndugire.

Julia Maina, a resident, accused the municipal board of not taking residents’ concerns seriously and encouraging more investors to the area.

Municipal Board vice-chair James Waweru regretted the suffering of the residents and said the board had ordered all the players in the sector to be registered afresh.

Waweru said the board is working with a consulting firm focusing on the viability of the mine after the outcry of the residents.

“We are developing a policy framework that will ensure the quarry mines will not interfere with the private homes and investments in the locality.

“Once a mine is exhausted it will be filled as per the instructions in the policy. We have noted the presence of some risky holes left by some of the investors,” said Waweru.

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