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Thousands jobless after closure of sand quarries in Malindi

05 November 2013, 15:28 Bob Ndwiga

Malindi - More than 10,000 people in Magarini District of the Kilifi County have been rendered jobless following the closure of the Mjanaheri and Sabaki building sand quarries by the National Environment Movement Authority (NEMA).

The Malindi District Environmental Officer (DEO), Samuel Nganga, shut all the sand quarries in Malindi and Magarini District over environmental damage in an order which sought environmental audit and impact assessment reports from the owners.

The order, which was served to the various quarry owners through the Mjanaheri Sand Harvesters Cooperative Society Limited, has brought  to a halt one of the most profitable economic pillars of the Kilifi County with an annual  turnover of more than KES 1.4 billion.

Although there has been crisis in the sand industry in the region within the past one month, the closure of the quarries which directly employ more than 2 000 young loaders is causing tension in the area.

Three days ago, the Magarini M.P, Harry Kombe, and Ward Representative, Elina Mbaru, had to calm down the young loaders who threatened to damage the Mjanaheri water wells which are a source of water for more than 150,000 residents of the constituency, demanding that NEMA lift the ban on sand harvesting.

The loaders were also joined by more than 100 female food kiosk owners who threatened to hold a sit-in along the Malindi-Lamu highway to demand resumption of sand harvesting and sale.

During a tension-packed public rally at the Mjanaheri primary school, Mbaru said, “Please do not take law in your hands; give the MP and I time to consult with the Kilifi County governor, Amason Jeffa Kingi, and the Kilifi County NEMA officer. We have confidence that the stalemate will be resolved and your income generating activities resumed.”

More than 200 sand transporters in the County are also seeking the lift of the ban on sand harvesting to forestall the collapse of the construction industry.

The transporters who operated more than 250 Lorries and trailers to haul sand to various construction sites said construction firms had warned that they might be forced to suspend work unless the stalemate between the sand transporters, the Kilifi County government and the National Environmental Management Authority ended.

The investors further sought the reduction of weigh bridge fees from KES 200 per ton of sand to a manageable fee to avoid increased cost of the essential commodity.

Sand harvesting in Mjanaheri and Timboni queries in Magarini District of the Kilifi County has stalled for the last one month since transporters under the North Coast Sand Transporters Association boycotted the hauling of sand over the installation of a private weigh bridge at Kimbokoni area along the Malindi-Lamu highway.

Amid the differences between the sand transporters and the private weigh bridge owners who have the mandate of the Kilifi County government, NEMA went ahead to shut the quarries thus compounding the crisis.

The North Coast Transporters Association (NCTA) chairman, Alfred Agunga, warned that unless the Kilifi County government intervened to streamline the sand harvesting business, the construction industry in Malindi and Mombasa was at risk of collapsing.

Agunga said that due to the weigh bridge installation, prices of sand had risen from KES 8,000 to KES 35,000 per ordinary lorry, while a trailer of sand now cost KES 60,000 up from KES 20,000 before the weigh bridge was installed.

A Mombasa based supplier of sand and building materials, Mohammed Jore, said that dealers in Mombasa faced an acute shortage of sand due to the crisis in Malindi and Magarini given that the two areas produced the best sand for more than 90 percent of the construction industry.

“The prices of sand have doubled and the crisis is set to have very negative effects on the construction industry in Kilifi and Mombasa counties. We would like the stalemate to be resolved to avoid the collapse of this important sector,” said Jore.

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