OVERVIEW OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ON SAND HARVESTING AND ITS EFFECT TO THE SUSTAINABILITY OF RIVERS IN MAKUENI COUNTY
Purpose of the Study: The researcher sought to answer three questions: What are the environmental policy frameworks that govern sand harvesting? Why do people harvest sand in Makueni? What should be done to protect rivers?
Statement of the Problem: This paper gives an overview of environmental policy on sand harvesting and its sustainability of rivers in Makueni County. Nairobi is endowed with skyscrapers that endow its skies. What few people may not know is that these beautiful towers are built by natural resources that are transported from the rural semi-arid areas of Kenya. Indiscriminate exploitation of sand deposits that retain water in seasonal rivers is fast creating a huge environmental catastrophe. A great percentage of trailers that soar traffic along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway are used to ferry sand and stones from the Makueni to construction sites in Nairobi. When you look to your left, right, in-front or behind you, you will likely see a skyscraper under construction, thanks to the continuous supply of river sand which is most preferred by constructors. Haulage of sand by heavy trucks causes environmental degradation by accelerating soil erosion and affecting soil stability. Storage of sand causes destruction of surface areas through clearing of vegetation and uses land that could be used for irrigation.
Methodology: This study adopted interpretivist philosophical paradigm and employed a qualitative research approach which involved collection and analysis of non-numerical data from first-hand observation, interviews, focus groups, recordings and participant observations in order to generate new knowledge about the phenomenon of interest. The researcher employed exploratory research design to help her probe further the study area.
Result: Related social and economic problems included conflict school drop-out rate leading to serious socio-economic problems. The positive effects of sand harvesting include local employment; however, the share of monetary benefits to locals is minimal as the larger share goes to the sand barons and cartels. The results showed that the local community gained the least from sand harvesting, but stood to lose the most if the depletion of river resources continued.
Conclusion: As a mitigation plan towards addressing negative outcomes of sand harvesting that we have seen in the discussion, the researcher planned to implement a number of strategies by way of adopting an advocacy planning cycle: one (workshop & all stakeholders); two – explore alternative construction technologies that do not use sand. Singapore has successfully adopted Ferrocement and Koto concepts of construction which uses very minimal sand or none. By so doing, the researcher hoped that this thought-provoking ideas would contribute to the abolishment of sand harvesting in Makueni County. The researcher hopes that the Citizenship Responsible Behaviour will provoke all stakeholders in preparing the County towards the adoption of environmentally friendly construction alternatives as well as help the Government in achieving one of its Big Four agenda items of affordable housing and ecological balance.
Recommendation: Suggestions were made for safe and sustainable methods of managing sand harvesting, in which greater national and local policy revision and enforcement of regulations is necessary to protect the environment.
Keywords: Environmental Policy, Sand Harvesting, Sustainability of Rivers, Makueni County
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