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Sand harvesters arrested for polluting river 

Eight  people  were  on Wednesday arrested in connection with sand harvesting in Mathioya River of Murang’a county and four lorries full of sand confiscated.

Murang’a East Deputy County Commissioner (DCC), Kepha Marube under whose jurisdiction the river falls said in his office the sand harvesters will be arraigned in court  on Thursday.

Sand harvesting in Mathioya riverbed and bank has become a major environmental challenge since it is causing silting in the river and polluting water that is relied upon for domestic use by people living downstream.

The practice has also been a cause of sour working relationship between the county and the national governments in the area since the county government has licensed the sand harvesters to undertake their sand business.

The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) on the other hand maintains the practice is an environmental threat.

Murang’a Deputy County Director of NEMA, Beatrice Kanani  told  the County Service Delivery Committee meeting that sand harvesting in the river is causing silting and browning of water making it unfit for intended purposes.

She noted that sand harvesters are using pumps to draw water, which they use to clean off the soil from the sand after which they drain the dirty water back into the river.

Kanani warned that anyone contravening environmental regulations would be prosecuted.

Some of the effects of sand harvesting in rivers include riverbank erosion, riverbed degradation and lowered water tables.

It also negatively affects organisms living in the rivers.

Removing sand from the river also causes the river to cut its channel through the bed of the valley floor, which leads to a river changing its riverbed, and also increases flood frequency and intensity by reducing flood regulation capacity.

This causes flooding during the rainy seasons.

At the same time, when sand mining reaches certain thresholds, it may lead to a river drying up which is a threat to water supply for domestic or irrigation use.

By Judith Thuo

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