Residents of Matiliku, Makueni County have raised concern over the rampant sand harvesting in Kikuo river.
Led by Kikuo Water Resources and Users Association (WRUA) Antony Mutua, the residents decried the ongoing blatant illegal sand harvesting activities along the river and called on the county government to crack down on the sand harvesters.
The residents noted that the river is their main source of water for both domestic and animal use and accused the county government of laxity in the fight against the illegal activity.
The residents, speaking at Kwamutumia Primary School during a tree planning exercise funded by INADES, a local non-governmental organisation, said despite a Sand Harvesting Act recently enacted to regulate sand harvesting, nothing had been done to implement the new law and threatened to take matters in their hands if the county government does not move with speed to protect the resource.
“If this sand harvesting does not stop we are going to burn all lorries that we find ferrying sand from Kikuo river,” said Mutua WRUA chair.
He called urged the county government to collaborate with relevant stakeholders in the region to avert further destruction of the river.
“Let the government consult with stakeholders like the WRUA because we are the ones protecting the rivers and we cannot continue preserving our environment for some people to come and destroy it,” said Mutua.
“We do not even know what the sand act entails, the county government should also conduct a community mobilization forum and educate us on the act and how it shall be implemented,” he added.
Another resident who sought anonymity for fear of reprisal said harvesting cartels were collaborating with local administrators to harvest sand.
He accused area chiefs and ward administrators of protecting sand harvesters who have continued to swindle the residents of their resources.
“These cartels pay bribes to the administrators to allow them to ferry the sand forcing residents to walk for long distances in search of water,” he said.
However, County Environment Assistant Director Joseph Munyao denied illegal sand harvesting in the region. Munyao told Kenya Monitor that he had not received any reports on sand harvesting or violation of the act .
“As far as my office is concerned, there are no violations of sand harvesting,” he said.
He however admitted to lack of clear structures on the implementation of the sand law adding relevant authorities had not stated whether the law was already in place.
“The question is whether we should comply with the ban that had existed before the law or that law is in place,”said Munyao
He however said that his department will soon streamline the activities of sand harvesting saying that a sand authority and sub county committees will soon be put in place to regulate the sand harvesting.
Illegal sand harvesting has been a menace in Makueni County with many rivers drying up due to lack of clear legal structures. The activity has often led to conflicts some even leading to death.
Upon ascending into power in March 2013, the Governor Kivutha Kibwana immediately banned sand harvesting. However, the activity continued unabated forcing the county assembly to legislate a law to regulate the harvesting,
Although the sand law was passed and approved by the Governor early this year, implementation is yet to take place with many sand harvesters taking advantage of the lapse to scoop sand.