An environmental tribunal has stopped China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) from harvesting sand in Kwale, a move that is set to delay the reclaiming of the Indian Ocean for a new rail container terminal.
The sand is to be used as a filling material in reclaiming the 13 acres from the Indian Ocean, creating the ground on which the container terminal to link the standard gauge railway (SGR) to Mombasa port will be built.
The National Environment Tribunal (NET) has written to CRBC, the contractor for the railway, asking it to suspend the sand harvesting plan until an appeal lodged by residents is heard and determined.
In the appeal, South Coast Residents Association has asked NET not to allow the planned sand harvesting, citing potential damage to the marine habitat and sea life off Diani and Tiwi beaches. The beaches support tourism and fishing.
“All activities relating to the appeal in question must be stopped until the appeal is heard and determined by the tribunal,” says the tribunal in a letter to CRBC seen by the Business Daily.
The order deals a blow to CRBC, which was on May 22 granted a licence by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to continue harvesting 800,000 tonnes of sand offshore along the Indian Ocean from Likoni through Waa to Tiwi area in Kwale.
NET hears and determines appeals against decisions made by Nema relating to issuance, revocation or denial of Environmental Impact Assessment licences.
Nema had allowed the railway contractor to harvest sand at a distance of between 400 metres to one kilometre from the shoreline but the association now wants this pushed to between five and 10 kilometres away, saying that this is the international standard.
The sand harvesting has been opposed by environmental groups since the idea was floated, arguing that it would destroy the coral reef that offers a protective barrier from strong ocean currents.
Hoteliers also argue that sediments dumped into the ocean during the dredging are likely to be washed back to the South Coast beach by ocean currents.
“This will inevitably downgrade the award winning status of Diani Beach, leading to further decline in the tourism industry,” said a memorandum from the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers.
The order by the tribunal is likely to affect CRBC’s timetable for the development of the container terminal even as it works with a tight deadline of June 2017 to have completed the 472-kilometre Mombasa-Nairobi railway.