Escalating conflict over sand harvesting in Makueni County is among the issues President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to address when he visits the region this week.
“Wanton sand harvesting is doing a lot of harm to our environment,” Governor Kivutha Kibwana said last week during a prayer meeting in Wote Town.
Prof Kibwana urged clerics to pray for the issue.
And while addressing incoming Makueni County Commissioner Alex Nkoyo, he called on the national government to intervene.
“Indiscriminate sand harvesting creates problems because water here is scarce,” said Prof Kibwana.
In response, the Mr Nkoyo said, “We need to work towards sustainable management of the natural resource that is within our area.”
Since 2015, six people have lost their lives and scores, among them police officers and government officials, wounded in clashes involving residents, sand harvesters, transporters and county officials.
In addition, at least 10 vehicles have been destroyed in sand harvesting conflicts, the latest case being last Friday when residents set ablaze a truck that was loading sand at Muuani River in Mangala Village.
Prof Kibwana had put a temporary order barring the harvesting of sand from rivers in the area and its transportation at night, angering sand traders.
A resident who told the Nation that she saw a group of youth beating occupants of the truck that was burnt last Friday and loaders called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to save residents from the menace of indiscriminate sand harvesting.
Area administrators led by Mukaa OCPD Antony Mbogo cautioned the residents against taking the law into their hands.
Nation also established that a man who was injured in the attack and who was rushed to Sultan Hamud Hospital before being referred to Kenyatta National Hospital was one of the local youth who escort sand merchants to the riverbeds at night.
In an advert run in local dailies last week, the county government named several residents suspected to be illegal sand harvesters and asked them to surrender to the police in a week.
The notice also listed trucks that the county government had impounded in connection with sand harvesting, but did not mention barons behind the lucrative sand trade.