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Offshore sea sand harvest in Kwale district, south of Mombasa, Kenya

The national environmental tribunal (NET) in Kenya stopped China Roads and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) from harvesting sea sand in Kwale County for construction of the terminal of SGR after locals appealed against a license issued in 2015.


Kenya has taken a path to accelerate development through mega projects in infrastructure, mining, oil and gas, energy and large-scale agriculture. These are projects without which the country will never achieve Vision 2030. But when such projects are not implemented responsibly, they often come at a high cost to the environment and affected communities. History has shown that projects that have adopted environmental and social standards and best practices have quickened development, improved the well-being of communities and achieved improved biodiversity and conservation outcomes. The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is an important pillar of the development agenda. [1]However, in January/February 2016, the national environmental tribunal (NET) stopped China Roads and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) from harvesting sea sand in Kwale County for construction of the Standard Gauge Railway after locals appealed against a license issued in 2015 to the company by National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA)[2]. The tribunal initially stopped the CRBC from harvesting the sand in July 2015 pending the determination of the appeal. [3]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Offshore sea sand harvest in Kwale district, south of Mombasa, Kenya
State or province:Coast Province
Location of conflict: Likoni through Waa to Tiwi Area, mainly Matuga Location, Kwale County and partly in Mombasa County
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Ports and airport projects
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The proposed sand-harvesting site is located offshore South Coast from Likoni through Waa to Tiwi in the South Coast and has an estimated depth of between19 – 50 meters. The vessels to be used in the above activity are 1 suction barge (SI HANG CAI SHA 1) and two new belt-conveyer barges, which are arriving in the country in June 2015. The sand will be sucked from deep sea by 2 sand pumps, which are equipped in the suction dredger and be shifted to either the hopper of suction barge or belt-conveyer barges through the 600mm diameter steel sand pipe. After fully loaded, the sand will be transported from the sand harvesting area through the KPA area to the construction site at Port Reitz to be offloaded for reclamation work of Railway Container Terminal and Marshaling Yard. The sand harvesting activity is expected to take place about 6 months starting March 2015. An estimated total of 800,000M3 of sand is required for the construction of the Port Reitz Railway Container Terminal and Marshaling Yard.

Project area:1369
Type of populationUnknown
Affected Population:650,000
Start of the conflict:2015
End of the conflict:2016
Company names or state enterprises:China Road and Bridge Engineering Co., Ltd. (CRBC) from China
Relevant government actors:-Kwale County government
- National Evironmental Tribunal (NET)
-National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)
-The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA,
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-South Coast Residents Association (SCRA,
-Kwale County Natural Resources Network
-Kenya Wildlife Service
-The National Environmental Civil Society Alliance of Kenya
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Waste overflow, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impacts-Killing of our mangroves at Gazi – mangroves which produce oxygen and filter the air we breathe.
-The reef would die.
-Heavy metals from the mud dumped off Likoni could contaminate the ocean.
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impacts-The tourist industry would totally collapse since tourists do not want to come to an area which is just rocks, no diving, no fishing etc.
-The Tiwi Fishermen reiterated that they are still jobless as no fishing can be done in their area, and it is 2 years now that they cannot afford to send their children to school.
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:On 22 January 2016, NET cancelled the license [NEMA/EIA/PRS/1581] issued by NEMA and directed that the proponent (Chinese Roads and Bridges) to undertake a full ESIA. The court ordered that an underwater survey be conducted to identify the species and the ecosystems that might be affected and how this would be mitigated. Additionally, the volume of sand available at the proposed site was to be determined. The ruling was unprecedented.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

[11] Tribunal Appeal No. NET -152-2015
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[5] ESIA Project Report for the Proposed Offshore Sea Sand Harvesting from Off-Likoni to North of Tiwi in. South Coast of the Indian Ocean for Construction of Port Reitz Cargo Terminal of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway Project
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[2] National Environmental Management Authority, Kenya (NEMA)
[click to view]

[3] Tribunal bans harvesting ocean sand for SGR, Feb. 19, 2016, By ALLOYS MUSYOKA
[click to view]

[click to view]

[7] The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA)
[click to view]

[10] Building of railway terminal delayed as firm loses crucial licence
[click to view]

[8] Stop dredging in Diani Beach, plead hoteliers
[click to view]

[9] NECSA-K disagrees with report on proposed offshore sea sand harvesting off Likoni
[click to view]

[6] South Coast Residents Association (SCRA)
[click to view]

[4] Kenya tourism stakeholders: Leave the sand on Diani Beach
[click to view]

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Contributor:EnvJustice, ICTA-UAB
Last update28/12/2017
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