Is sand harvesting in Rivers a threat to environment?

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Sand harvesting has been the norm in most rivers that are draining into Lake Victoria causing massive destruction to the environment.

Two Rivers in focus are Nyamasaria in Kisumu County that originates from Nandi Hills and Amala in the border of Bomet and Narok counties that originates from Mau Forest.Sand harvesting remains the biggest economic activity in these areas.

However, the activity has exposed the two areas into serious environmental degradations.Daily haulage of sand by heavy trucks has continued to cause environmental degradation by accelerating soil erosion and affecting soil stability.

In the Mau area, environmentalist actors have put in place efforts to conserve river tributaries that form Mara River as it drains into the lake.Paul Rono, Secretary Mara River Water Users Association says the tributaries are key to the survival of Mara River thus the need to conserve them.

Rono says there are two major rivers, Nyongores and Amala that drains to Mara River which must be conserved at all cost.

“We have five river tributaries that converge at a point to form Mara River and we must ensure they are conserved from the illegal human activities around them,” he said.Most rivers, he says, originate from Mau Forest in Narok and conservation efforts are geared towards keeping the rivers flowing.

Rono says families living downstream of Mara River Basin must be engaged more consistently in a bid to sensitize them on proper utilization of their land next to the rivers.

“We have the Maa community and the Kalenjin community, and each and every community have their own culture of their living,” he said.

For the Maa community, he says, they are pastoralists and keep a lot of animals which whenever they walk around in terms of grazing and foot paths to the water source, they degrade the environment.

Rono noted that the upstream of the Basin is littered with small scale farmers who farm up to the riparian land thus degrading the environment.

Speaking recently in Bomet, Rono says a new threat which is emerging and threatening the cause of these rivers is sand harvesting.

Rono says many youths and women have abandoned any other meaningful activity to engage eon scooping and from these rivers.

“Sand harvesting is speedily emerging and as environmentalists, we must stop it before it degenerate to a phenomenon,” he said.

Rono says the rivers are not safe with the wanton scooping of sand that leaves them bare at the glare of government agencies like National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).“Both National and County Governments have turned a blind eye to these activities that expose us to climate change, something must be done,” he said.

John Kimelel, a 24 year old man who has been harvesting sand from the river for the last one year disputes that they are destroying the environment.

“I believe that we are opening the river channel, what we are getting is deposits from the upstream, I don’t see any danger to the environment,” he said.

In Kisumu Nyamasaria River, Joseph Ngome, chairman of Kenya Nile Discourse Forum, says they have witnessed with shock the blatant breach of the laws in regard to conserving the environment.

Ngome says the River lies next to Kisumu City where top national and county governments sit without uttering any caution to the degraders of environment.“Scooping of sand in this River is glare to everybody and why it has not been stopped by the relevant authorities beat no logic,” he said.

Kisumu County Executive Committee Member for Environment Salmon Orimba says those harvesting sand from the river have disobeyed the county order banning such activities.

Orimba says mining of sand in the rivers is degrading the environment and must be stopped at all cost.“Soon my office will mount a crackdown and nab all those who are going against the law, we must protect our environment,” he said.

He announced that his office will institute measures to map out the affected areas with a view to eliminate the menace and ensure compliance with environmental protection laws.

By Joseph Ojwang