Isiolo Deputy Governor Abdi Issa has proposed a ban on illegal sand harvesting in the region, particularly along the Ewaso Ng’iro River citing depletion of water and sand on river beds.
Dr Issa said illegal sand harvesting for commercial use thrives hence eroding water holding capacity at the river which serves many counties.
The county official claimed that sand harvesters from regions that have enforced the sand harvesting ban have moved to the river and parts of Isiolo.
There is massive degradation and reduction of water volumes in the river which crosses seven arid and semiarid landscapes, with stakeholders now calling on urgent conservation measures to ensure that it does not dry-up as a result of illegal sand harvesting.
The official further proposed that legislation should be put in place to completely ban the illegal activity saying it is destroying the vegetation and eroding sand which acts as a barrier to the flow of water downstream.
With the construction industry soaring, the demand for sand increases with other counties restricting sand harvesting and export.
“Sand harvesters from other counties are flocking Isiolo and Ewaso Ng’iro River after their administrations imposed a ban. This is a natural disaster which calls for urgent ban since we are staring at a calamity,” said Dr Issa.
Sand transporters export more than 20 trucks daily with some sneaking at night from Isiolo to Laikipia, Meru, Nairobi, Isiolo town, Nyeri and other counties.
According to the Environmental Management and Coordination ACT, respective county environment committees are responsible for regulating uncontrolled sand mining.
The committee is supposed to work with the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to implement national sand harvesting guidelines.
Miners are then required to obtain licences from Nema, after an environmental impact assessment is done on the site.
The ongoing sand harvesting along the Ewaso Ng’iro River is illegal since no harvester has been licenced.
Sand harvesting, which is a source of livelihood among a section of youth who harvest and load sand into lorries is threatening thousands of pastoralists both downstream and midstream together with small-scale farmers in the region who rely on the river for irrigation.
Isiolo County has developed a sand harvesting bill that will be enacted into law for enforcement.