Plans for real estate development, tree planting, and new cash crops for economic up-liftment in the area of Mwireri/Gitugi and its neighbourhood in Laikipia County, have been dealt a severe blow by the illegal siting of a stone crusher and quarry on land earmarked for agricultural and residential development.
The crusher, brought to the site illicitly, mid December 2015 without any formal permissions or notifications to the Laikipia County offices for Lands and Physical Planning, is set to disrupt job creation in the area, while causing significant and sustained damage to the environment.
"Quarrying and crushers in an agricultural area, is not allowed by law as it spreads a fine layer of toxic and damaging silica dust, which is linked to cancer, TB and respiratory diseases,” said Muthee Katheru, a land owner in Gitugi who is leading a grassroots effort to prevent the operation of the quarry and crusher.
"Studies in India, Turkey and Ghana have also shown how the dust covers the landscape for some 2-5kms radius, killing crops and destroying grazing for livestock, so the area becomes a wasteland. Noise and vibrations and falling rocks damage buildings, endanger lives, as at Nakuru, where schoolchildren were killed by rocks.”
Currently, the closest inhabitant to the illegal siting lives some 50 metres away from the crusher. Other landowners with plots close by were not informed of the proposed siting of a crusher within the area. “It is clear impunity,” said a local lawyer when consulted on the matter. “The proponents have not followed any due legal process. Their activity will provide no real local benefit and must be stopped."
“Laikipia County, the venue for President Kenyatta’s Space for Giants summit due to take place in April 2016, is actively promoting tourism and real estate as tangible avenues for investment,” added another local landowner interested in attracting investment to the area. “We can’t follow through with suggested projects when people from outside the area come to pollute our land with no respect for the law or locals living close by.”
In the neighbouring county, Nyeri, some eight multi-billion real estate projects are underway, many using community labour. The damaging action of the proposed project in Mwireri/Gitugi will prevent the same benefits of real estate development from being implemented in this part of Laikipia County.
Mr. Joseph Mathenge Gitonga, of Rock Works Energy Ltd, and his co-proponent, confirmed that despite bringing equipment to the area, they have not alerted official government channels, nor applied for licenses for the project. Mr. Mugambi, an officer from the Ministry of Lands, Laikipia County, was prevented from informing local inhabitants of the illegal nature of a crusher/quarry during a last minute EIA meeting held in January 2016.
Further, titles for the land were not shown as per legal requirement at an EIA meeting and only some of the titles are recorded in the EIA report. It is also alleged that the land ownership of part of the site remains in contention due to grabbing.
Neither Mathenge Gitonga nor the EIA consultant, Mr. Nyasani provided the necessary information at the EIA baraza as regards effects of and mitigation for the damage of such activities in the area.
Mathenge Gitonga’s proposed quarry and crusher have been turned away from two other sites, one in Mweiga, and a second one some 4kms away on the Nanyuki-Timau highway.
“The Environment Management and Coordination Act entitles every person in Kenya to “a clean and healthy environment, but also to ensure that the environment is not degraded,” added Gatheru. “We will fight to ensure our area is not ruined for local people at the expense of profit for a few.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT
SHALINI: (+254) 0731 221 848
MUTHEE GATHERU: (+254) 0722759047