Sand harvesting close to high voltage electricity lines banned

Downed high-voltage power line in Longonot, Naivasha. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The government has banned sand harvesting along the wayleave of high-voltage power lines in Naivasha.

The ban covers Mai Mahiu, Longonot, Mirera and Mithuri villages.

According to Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Mutua Kisilu, a special team had been formed to monitor and inspect the power towers in Naivasha.

He said that an inspection along the power lines had established massive sand harvesting which was exposing the towers to collapse.

“We have held a meeting with the communities near the power towers and banned any sand harvesting along the way-leave as it is making the towers weak,” he said.

Mutua also reaffirmed government plans to kick out all those who have settled under the power lines, adding that they should obey the 30-metre rule set to keep human activity away from the power lines.

The sand harvesting comes barely two weeks after President Uhuru Kenyatta banned the scrap metal business following an increase in vandalism of pylons.

In the last three months, vandals have targetted the Kiambere-Embakassi, Loiyangalani-Suswa and the Olkaria-Kisumu high voltage lines.

Mutua said that since the ban on scrap-metal business came into force,  vandalism targeting transformers and pylons had stopped.

“According to Kenya Power, they were losing at least one transformer in the county daily, in the past but since the ban, these cases have stopped,” he said.

Meanwhile, over 150 families living near the Olkaria-Kisumu power line said they were ready to move out if compensated by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco).

According to Wilson Kariuki, families were undergoing untold suffering as they waited for their compensation.

“We were land owners whose houses were demolished to pave way for the power line but we are still waiting for our dues nearly ten years down the line,” he said.

Susan Wambui said they fully supported the government project but complained that the power line ended up displacing and impoverishing them.

“We have been getting lies from Ketraco and we have been turned into tenants yet we had homes that we had constructed through loans,” she said.