NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Property developers in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi are
grappling with high cost of sand as prices hit an all-time high
following counties move to protect environment.
counties which border Nairobi and are the sources of sand used in
construction in the capital have placed a ban on sand harvesting to
protect the environment.
The counties, namely Makueni, Machakos and Kajiado, said sand
harvesters have been mining the commodity without regard to the
Other counties that have banned sand harvesting or placed
stricter control on the activity include Kitui.
"We saw it wise to ban harvesting of sand in Kajiado so that the
county comes up with policies of how the industry can be
"and harvesters have degraded our rivers for many years, we would
not allow this to continue as we lose revenue," Kajiado Governor
Joseph ole Lenku said last month while issuing the directive.
The bans placed nearly a month ago have raised the cost of sand
by at least 30 percent pushing property developers on the brink.
Twenty tons of sand is currently being sold at 400 U.S., up from
300 dollars weeks ago.
On the other hand, 10 tons of sand is being sold at between 200
dollars and 250 dollars.
The rise is the highest in recent times for the commodity that is
an important construction ingredient.
Some property developers in the capital Nairobi and the suburbs
have deferred work until supply of sand improves while others have
switched to quarry dust, which 20 tonnes cost 100 dollars.
"We were supposed to start the plastering of our houses a week
ago but we cannot because of scarcity of sand," James Kyalo, a
contractor in Kitengela on the outskirts of Nairobi told Xinhua in a
A four-storey block of flat he is building needs tonnes of sand,
with the current prices nearly doubling their cost.
"The owner did the cost and decided to defer the work because
even with the higher prices, one has to book and wait for some days
before the sand is delivered," he said.
Some of those building the houses are purely using dust mixed
with cement to make joints or are mixing it with sand.
Joseph Mongare, a media worker who is building a house in
Syokimau on the outskirts of Nairobi, said he had to turn to dust to
continue with his work.
"I bought 20 tonnes of sand at 380 dollars and 60 tonnes of dust,
which I am mixing as I use. I thought of stopping the work to wait
for sand but it did not make sense as that would have increased my
costs in the long-term," he said.
However, such practices compromise the quality of buildings as
dust or its mixture with sand does not make stronger joints like
"The problem with this development is that we are going to end up
with many weak buildings or those whose quality is compromised
because developers are building houses of up to seven floors using
dust," said Antony Kuyo, a real estate consultant with Avent
Properties in Nairobi.
Kuyo noted that for developers who are not using dust and are
building houses for sale, the high cost of sand would push up prices
"Developers would certainly seek to recover their costs and they
would pass this to buyers," he said.
He added that while protection of environment is important, he
said measures taken should not be drastic to destabilize other
"For many years sand harvesting has been haphazard and it is a
welcome move to regulate it.
"Counties can impose tariffs or even formulate regulations to
control mining in rivers but a total ban is not the way to go," he
A 2014 UN report shows that globally, 40 billion tonnes of sand
and gravel are extracted every year.
However, legal sand extraction industry is worth 70 billion
dollars while a huge section is unaccounted for.
Besides in building and construction, sand is also used in the
manufacture of microchips and detergents. However, the bulk is used
in the construction industry.
Environmentalists note that excessive sand harvesting destroys
riparian vegetation, inhibits flow of water along the river, erodes
the water-holding capacity of the riverbed and damages ecosystems.