Building of railway terminal delayed as firm loses crucial licence

Saturday February 13 2016

Construction of the standard gauge railway container terminal in Port Reitz, Mombasa. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI

Kenya's National Environment Tribunal has cancelled a Chinese firm’s licence to harvest sand from the Indian Ocean for reclaiming land for the construction of a new railway terminal.

NET cancelled environmental impact assessment licence issued to China Roads & Bridges Corporation (CRBC) to harvest sand as a result of an appeal lodged by Kwale residents.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) had issued — licence to the Chinese firm to harvest sand to be used as material to reclaim land where a container terminal for standard gauge railway (SGR) will be located at Port Reitz in Mombasa.

NET’s decision took consideration of Kwale residents’ fears that sand harvesting would affect the best formed coral reef, fish breeding ground, quality of water and livelihoods of local people.

The tribunal’s order setting aside the EIA licence issued on May 22, 2015 is likely to affect the timetable for building the container terminal as CRBC has June 2017 deadline to complete a 472-kilometre SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi.

NET is empowered by Kenyan law to hear and determine appeals against decisions made by the Nema relating to issuing, revocation or denial of EAI licences.
CRBC has to stop harvesting sand and commission afresh EIA.


“The tribunal directs a full EIA study be expeditiously conducted in full compliance with the law, including regulation of the EIA and audit regulations, based on specific and current baseline information,” reads NET’s order.

The South Coast Residents Association (SCRA) and Kwale County Natural Resources Network (KCNRN) filed an appeal in the tribunal on July 2, 2015 through Midirika & Company Advocates against NEMA and CRBC.

SCRA with KCNRN contested sand harvesting citing potential damage to the marine habitat and sea life off Diani and Tiwi beaches, which support tourism and fishing along the country’s coastline.

“There was no socio-economic study conducted to identify potentially affected community members,” said NET.

Nema had granted the Chinese contractor the EIA licence to harvest 800,000 tonnes of sand offshore along the Indian Ocean from Likoni through Waa to Tiwi area in Kwale.

Nema had allowed sand harvesting at a distance of between 400 metres and one kilometre from the shoreline, but SCRA with KCNRN demanded that these activities be moved five to 10 kilometres away in line with international standards.

Nema said the EIA licence was approved with conditions, one of which was to address potential environmental hazards, relocation, compensation and restoration of the livelihoods of the affected community.