The National Environment Managing Authority (NEMA) has issued orders suspending a Chinese contractor, Mango Tree Group, from harvesting sand in Lake Victoria.
This is following public outcry over illegal sand harvesting activities at Takawiri Island in Lake Victoria by a 70 metres long and 4,000 tonne dredging vessel owned by the company based in Uganda.
The activities took place on 10th and 13 February this year without approval from the environment authority, NEMA Director General Mamo B. Mamo said in a press statement dated February 24.
The company had been contracted to implement the Kisumu Port Revitalization Project.
According to NEMA, the authority has established that in early February, the contractor undertook to find alternative sand sources within Lake Victoria to meet an unprecedented demand for the construction of a retainer wall along the Kisumu Port, Dunga beach and Nyatua Golf shorelines.
The firm used a dredging vessel to sample and analyze debris characteristics for four potential sites; Dunga beach, Asembo bay, Rusinga and Takawiri islands.
Takawiri Island sand beach was found to have higher potential for sand harvesting, necessitating a second sampling for detailed baseline information.
However, NEMA was forced to suspend the exercise after establishing that the sand harvesting exploration in the ecologically sensitive Takawiri Island and Lake Victoria at large would have negative impacts on the lake’s “ecosystem integrity and public wellbeing”.
“This ought not to have been done without prior express notification and approval of the Authority following an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment being undertaken with inclusive stakeholder and public disclosure, participation and appropriate safeguards put in place, ” said Mamo.
“By order issued by the Authority, the contractor has since ceased all unauthorized sand exploration activities within the Lake until full compliance is achieved,” added the NEMA boss.
Mamo said a multi-agency technical team has been established to assess any impacts that may have been caused by the illegal activities and monitor compliance of the Kisumu Port Revitalization Project.
“In line with the ecosystem approach, Inter and intra generational equity, the Authority also assures the public that Environmental Sensitive Areas (ESA) within Lake Victoria Ecosystem shall remain preserved and protected, ” he added.
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.
Former Prime Minister and African Union Representative for Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga launched the dredging of Lake Victoria in January this year to allow larger vessels to dock at Kisumu Port as part of efforts to grow the city into an East Africa Economic Hub.
The project is coordinated by multi-government agencies which include Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Fisheries Authority and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission.