PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT

Nema stops firm from harvesting sand in Lake Victoria

Says any activity by Mango Tree outside the prescribed areas is illegal and must be stopped forthwith.

In Summary
  • Residents of Homa Bay county complained of illegal sand harvesting in the lake by a 70 metres long and 4,000 tonne dredging vessel
  • The harvesting was reported at Takawiri Island and the presence of the vessel reported in Mbita, Mfangano and Rusinga islands.
African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga during the launch of the dredger machine at Kisumu Port
Image: DANIEL OGENDO

 The National Environment Management Authority has directed Mango Tree Marine Limited to stop sand harvesting in Lake Victoria.

This is after residents of Homa Bay county complained over illegal sand harvesting in the lake by a 70 metres long and 4,000 tonne dredging vessel owned by the company based in Uganda.

In a letter dated February 16, 2021 to Mango Tree Marine Limited, Nema director general Mamo Mamo told the company to stop any further harvesting of sand in Lake Victoria.

The letter is copied to Environment and Forestry Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo and Kenya Ports Authority MD Salim Rashid.

Mamo said the harvesting was reported at Takawiri Island and the presence of the vessel reported in Mbita, Mfangano and Rusinga islands.

“It has been confirmed that there was sand harvesting in the Kenyan part of Lake Victoria, around Takawiri Island, volumes and quantities of which have not been confirmed yet, and the reasons why it was done not made known,” he said.

ODM Raila Odinga launched the vessel for dredging of Kisumu Port to allow big vessels to dock.

Mamo said that under the Revitalisation of Kisumu Port Infrastructure, Nema only licensed Mango Tree after carrying out environmental impact assessment to dredge Kisumu Port, Dunga area and Nyanza Golf Course.

The DG said any activity by Mango Tree outside the prescribed areas is illegal and must be stopped forthwith.

“The authority shall take appropriate action against the proponent in the event of breach of any of the conditions stated therein or any contravention to the EMCA, CAP 387 and regulations therein,” Mamo said.

Under Environmental Management Coordination Act, CAP 387, he said, every person shall cooperate with state organs to protect and conserve the environment and ensure the ecologically sustainable development and use within the rule of law.

He said any activity in the lake must get prior notification from the authority.

The authority has given the company seven days to state the amount of sand harvested in Takawiri and its destination.

This, Mamo said, will enable the authority to prescribe appropriate remedial measures to address the situation.

The company management have also been summoned to Nema headquarters in Nairobi next week for a compliance meeting.

Kenya Ports Authority has also been invited to attend the meeting. Locals including fishermen in Takawiri Island raised concerns after the vessel was seen scooping white sand on the beaches.

They said sand harvesting was interfering with the ecosystem. They demanded that action be taken against Mango Tree for interfering with the environment without acquiring the requisite licenses.

Revitalising the lake for optimisation of the blue economy is an initiative spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta in collaboration with Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o.

The project is coordinated by multi-government agencies which include Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Fisheries Authority and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission.

In 2019, Mango Tree administrator Frank Nenard said they will dredge the lake to accommodate heavy vessels on its harbours. 

They will also extract sand and rocks on the gulf after harvesting the weed. “We expect the lake to be dredged six metres deep by 80 metres wide,” he said.

Currently, the berth cannot accommodate heavy vessels due to huge siltation.

Edited by Henry Makori