Environmental impacts of sand harvesting under the sea


10 February 2016 - Dredger

10 February 2016 – Dredger

Sand harvesting on the outer reef slope of Kenya’s coast is apparently ramping up in recent years, due to demand for large scale construction projects for the material. However there is apparently no coordinated action to identify potential sources of sand/aggregate for construction, nor the pros and cons of different locations, minimizing environmental impacts and maintaining natural and other assets needed in other sectors such as fisheries and tourism.

Two ‘flashpoints’ have come up in the last 2 years, outlined in the tabs below.


South Coast, 2015Mtwapa, February 2016

23 January 2016. Sand harvesting on the outer reef slope from Likoni to Tiwi (part of the south coast of Kenya, south of Mombasa), by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, for construction of Kenya’s new Standard Gauge Railway has been stopped by Kenya’s National Environment Tribunal. This decision was reached by the Tribunal on a case brought by the South Coast Residents Association, opposing the decision by Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to allow harvesting on the basis of a preliminary ‘Environmental Report’ brought by the CRBC. Instead, the NET required that a full Environmental Impact Assessment must be conducted before NEMA can grant approval.

Lead+Consultant+and+representatives+of+key+government+organizations+on+site+visit+to+proposed+sea+sand+harvesting+siteThe initial “EIA” submitted by the CRBC contained almost no relevant information on coral reef and seagrass habitats, sediment resuspension by dredging, and sediment plume movements driven by wind, currents and waves. The EIA team did not conduct an environmental or biological assessment, did not survey the reef, marine habitats, or sand resource being harvested, and did not even get on a boat (see image at right) – the closest they got to the site was the beach (see image from the “EIA report”).

This created significant controversy, as documented in the following links.

Business Daily, 7 July 2015

Blog links 1 and 2

The window below contains the EIA, the license approval from NEMA, comments submitted on it to NEMA by CORDIO and other documents.


From 3-10 February two separate vessels have been sighted off Mtwapa Creek and the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve, apparently conducting sampling of the sea bottom off the reef. The operations appear similar to those that have been stopped off the south coast (see adjacent tab), fuelling speculation that since that activity has been stopped, this location may be being considered as an alternative.

However, no consultation has apparently been undertaken, putting this activity in the same category as the south coast operations, and liable to also be stopped through action in the National Environment Tribunal

3 February 2016 - standard freighter with crane

3 February 2016 – standard freighter with crane

10 February 2016 - Dredger

10 February 2016 – Dredger