Illegal Sand Mining ‘Prevents Flooding’

Wealthy businesspeople at Mariental have been accused of earning hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years by mining sand in the Fish River Basin and selling it for building purposes without consideration of land degradation.

Earlier this year, Governor of the Hardap Region, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, expressed concern about this practice as it is done on land belonging to government. No environmental studies have been carried out and in some cases underground water can be seen surfacing due to the depth of these sand-mining activities. However some officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry disagree with the concerns raised by the Office of the Governor, saying the sand-mining exercise is indeed beneficial and could help prevent potential flooding at Mariental.

Management Committee member of the Orange-Fish River Basin, Kempha Dausab, told New Era on enquiry that the removal of sand from the Fish River Basin would help prevent the flooding of Mariental, although it may be unlawful for businesspeople in the building industry to remove sand from the river irrespective of the negative effect it may have on the environment.

“The mining of sand from the Fish River must be seen in a positive context as it helps water to flow more freely during the rainy season,” explained Dausab.

Sand and reeds restrict the flow of water causing the river to overflow its banks resulting in flooding. It is against this background that government has resolved to spend millions of dollars to clear the Fish River of reeds and sand. The river was cleared of reeds for one kilometre last year and the rest will be cleared as soon as a study of the hydrological impact in the cleared section of the river has been completed, according to sources.

The Office of the Governor maintains Mariental remains under threat of recurrent flooding despite the removal of sand for commercial purposes. The practice is ongoing for many years now, but the town experienced a flood as recently as in 2006.

“It is uncontrolled and people are making hundreds of thousands of dollars from sand mining annually,” stated a source in the governor’s office.

New Era understands some business people had demarcated some areas for exclusive use by themselves, although the land belongs to government.

Source : New Era