Members of the South Coast Residents Association (SCRA), a civic platform where both businesses and individual residents of the on- and off-beach locations south of Mombasa meet, are furious about the tactics employed by the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) to keep them out of crucial meetings.
An exchange of mails made available to this correspondent suggests that KMA, by omission or by intent, did not invite SCRA and their extensive membership to a crucial meeting, at which discussions were held about plans by a Chinese company to harvest sand off the Tiwi Beach, after being outed a few weeks ago when, illegally, they were doing that same thing at the award-winning Diani Beach.
Thanks for your email. We missed you at the meeting. Kwale, Mombasa and Kilifi Counties were present and the issues of concern for your association were aerated. We had a very constructive dialogue with the consultant. It was agreed that the stakeholders compile the issues they are concerned about for onward transmission to the EIA Consultant. Feel free to call on us for any further information that you may need. We shall be happy as an Authority to ensure that your views reach the consultant.
While the Maritime Authority’s CEO Nancy Karigithu responded promptly yesterday to a flurry of mails, her answer was seen as not entirely satisfactory as one regular Diani based source promptly added: “One cannot help but be even more suspicious when you hear that our interests will be taken care of and our views passed on. How? How are our interests taken care of when we are kept out of meetings. What is going on? This discredits the entire process of EIA hearings and casts big doubts over intent and purpose of what these guys are planning. This smells of collusion and try reach a pre-determined outcome. It is classical behaviour in Kenya but thanks to social media and whistleblowers will we expose the schemes. Let them find their sand wherever but not from our prize winning beaches. Tourism is bad as it is and destroying assets like reefs and beaches is simply not on. Be sure that this is heading to court and if necessary all the way to the Supreme Court. In fact right now I am assessing if the East African Court of Justice can take the case because the marine ecosystem on our side of the common border with Tanzania extends to their waters too. Damage done here is affecting them and therefore does the EACJ have jurisdiction. This is not over, this is only the start.”
Meanwhile the SCRA responded to the Kenya Maritime Authority, and again a mail was made available to demonstrate the concerns Tiwi and Diani residents have:
Thank you for your response. Unfortunately the South Coast Residents’ Association was not invited to the meeting – we only heard about this from an email forwarded to us by a third party, after the meeting was over.
Our main concerns are the same as the China Railway sand harvester, i.e.,
• No proper EIA had been undertaken until we called for a meeting. This issue worries us with your operation because as I recall the EIA presented by KPA the last time they sand harvested in Waa, they produced an out of date EIA which was for Shelley Beach, and although we contested it, it was ignored.
• By removing sand in such quantities from any area will result that beach sand is washed away by the tides to fill in the gaps. This will result in destruction of the beaches, thus turning them into rocky beaches.
• Sand harvesting kills our reefs by sand being strewn over them. This has already occurred in the Waa/Tiwi area from last time sand was harvested.
• Any marine project should be done in consultation with marine experts/scientists to discuss the impact harvesting does.
• Tourist industry in those areas would collapse, as which tourist wants to go to a rocky beach where they will no longer be able to relax on the beach, go snorkelling or diving?
• Our local fishermen would still remain jobless as it will mean that still no further fishing can take place, also bearing in mind that they still have not been compensated from the last operation.
Kindly advise the EIA Consultant that we are requesting for a meeting to be held if possible in Tiwi inviting South Coast stakeholders, fishermen, marine scientists/experts and our Kwale Government officials who are copied into this email.
Two other relevant mails were also provided, allowing readers to more fully understand what has been going on:
Further to my below email, we request that a meeting be held in Tiwi in order to allow all our members and fishermen who reside there to attend.
Please also note that from the previous dredging done, the fishermen, who are members of SCRA, have still not been compensated as promised and signed for by Mr Hussein of KPA. This was 2 years ago when finally the fishermen were promised a fishing boat costing (or so we were told) a ridiculous sum of 33 million shillings!!!!!
We have been forwarded the above “invitation” to a meeting which arrived far too late, and we are most surprised that the main stakeholders were not invited by you.
I suggest that you read the following link which has been on all international media and I also request that a further meeting be arranged inviting members of the South Coast Residents’ Association, our [Kwale County] Minister of Tourism, Hon Adam Sheik and our County Administrator, Mr Hamisi Mwandaro, all present at the NEMA EIA meeting held in Diani and all aired their views.
We await to hear from you urgently.
Earlier findings indicated that some 5 million tons of sand were to be extracted from the beaches off the South coast. To compound the issue, the sand was then the be “washed” with the already-limited supply of fresh water available to the coast, where a shortfall of up to 40 percent of demand has been mentioned. Also seen were the proposals made by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (Kenya) Ltd. about the extraction of sand and the subsequent dumping of some 300,000 cubic meters of excavate and rubble into the sea. This will, according to expert opinions received from the coast, spell doom for the reefs and the close off-shore fishing industry.
These problems, however, may well be ignored as the powers that be in Kenya do want the SGR, aka Standard Gauge Railway, to be built by hook or crook. Fallout through sand harvesting and rubbish dumping, in their overall picture, matters apparently little, as long as the construction of the new railway goes ahead and is not “disturbed by these tree huggers,” a sentiment reportedly overheard from a senior government official who expressed exasperation with the due process while trying to find shortcuts around lengthy hearings.