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Govt rakes in sand business

02 October 2013, 00:40

Kilifi - The Kilifi County government has launched campaigns to control the multimillion sand harvesting businesses in the county to make it profitable and environmentally friendly to the quarry owners.

Despite generating more than Sh. 1.4 billion annually at rates of Sh. 120 million every month, the business is managed in haphazard style leaving the quarry owners and sand harvesters little inform of profits.

County secretary for water and environment Mwachitu Kiringi said rules were being formulated to mobilize funds to be spent to rehabilitate abandoned quarries in a partnership between experts from the county government and sand harvesters.

This comes at a time when residents of the Mjanaheri area in Magarini District and their leaders have protested over low income from sand harvesting and trade.

Quarry owner and nominated Kilifi County assembly member Kingi Ngombo has within the last three months attempted to mobilize the sand harvesters to come together in partnership to make the sand business more profitable and sustainable.

Despite facing heavy opposition from some individual sand harvesters and quarry owners, the county assembly member eventually managed to bring experts to the ground to analyze the operations and educate the sand harvesters on the profits they could gain if they united.

In a meeting held at the Mjanaheri area in Magarini District  Kiringi insisted that sand harvesting must be done in a sustainable way to avoid damage of water sources and agricultural land.

He described the present methods of sand harvesting as destructive to the environment and uneconomical to the quarry owners.

Malindi and Magarini Districts’ cooperative officer James Mwasi surprised the sand harvesters when he announced at sand business generated more than Sh. 120 million in profits.

He, however warned that the profits from the sand never reached the real owners of the quarries due growing mismanagement of the cooperative movements.

Mwanzia said “There is potential for huge profits and wealth from the sand mining industry in Mjanaheri area alone, yet mismanagement of the various cooperative societies had affected their profitability and performance”.

He said conflicts and the overwhelming control by a clique of middle men had reduced profits by the real owners of the land where mines are dug and even among sand harvesters.

The cooperative officer supported plans to start a weigh bridge to ensure the amount of sand ferried from the region was known under the  Kilifi County government now in a partnership with a private company.

Mwanzia cautioned the quarry owners and sand harvesters to avoid operating as individual noting that the central and the county governments intended to only work with registered organizations in campaigns to streamlines building sand commerce.

He said that to ensure protection of the interests of all stakeholders in sand harvesting and commerce as well as environmental protection “no person will be allowed to harvest or sell sand as an individual”

And from the county government,  Kiringi warned that  , sand  harvesters failing to respect environmental protection guidelines would  face the full force of the law.

The Kilifi County government, secretary for water and environment said would work with the cooperative office to ensure that at least 10 per cent of the income from sand business would be reinvested in local community  development projects including rehabilitation of abandoned quarries.

Baseline studies, the environmental expert said has revealed heavy damage of the environment where huge chunks of agricultural land as well as areas with clean water aquifers faced total damage unless remedial  measures were launched.

The County government, he said had identified good potential in commercial production of Casuarina building poles and launch of fish ponds from the now abandoned quarries.

Studies had also revealed a potential for zones suitable for birds breeding where special programs for bird watching tourism would be launched.

Prospects indicate that once the weigh bridge is launched, building sand from the Mjanaheri area will hence be weighed and sold in kilograms and this is set to bring better profits to the sand harvesters and quarry owners who indications are have in the past been denied profits by middle men.

Kiringi said the county government would also explore the possibility of expanding the export of the building sand to various Arabic countries where present orders were dominated in international sand experts firms with no link to local harvesters.

Despite the expanding sand harvesting undertakings with the Mjanaheri sand being classified as the best building sand in East Africa and having been used to build some of the major land marks in Kenya including all the Coast bridges and international airports locally, the people of Magarini languish in near total poverty.

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