Gasabo sand miners demand clear policies from leaders

As Kigali city expands on and on, the demand for construction material such as sand keeps shooting up. In Kigali, especially Gasabo district and other neighbouring districts, sand mines are springing up, boosting not only the proprietors and labourers, but also the country through taxes.
Sand miners at heaps of their products in Kinyinya sector recently. The New Times/ File.
Sand miners at heaps of their products in Kinyinya sector recently. The New Times/ File.

As Kigali city expands on and on, the demand for construction material such as sand keeps shooting up. In Kigali, especially Gasabo district and other neighbouring districts, sand mines are springing up, boosting not only the proprietors and labourers, but also the country through taxes.

However, unpredictable regulatory policies by Kigali City is threatening operations of sand miners in Gasabo, the miners claim.

Ferdinand Ishimwe, who ventured into sand mining in February last year, has seen his business closed four times within just a year of operation.

His mine in Kinyinya sector in Gasabo now employs some 40 labourers.

He said after the closure, efforts to reopen always drag on for months.

“Sometimes it is frustrating; we are supposed to be partners with the district, but why do they just wake up and close someone’s business without visiting the sites and be sure whether we fulfil the requirements of operating?” he asked.

Ishimwe, who is exploiting two hectares of land, added that the closure affects his business since it operates on a loan.

Jean de Dieu Ngirabagabo, a labourer at Ishimwe’s mining site, said he has worked as a sand miner for eight years. He likes the job, except that it is unpredictable because any time the district officials can decide to halt their operation.

He said this affects his family’s sustenance since they depend on sand mining, where he gets Rwf4,000 on average daily.

“My wife was in high school and had to repeat her class because I couldn’t afford school fees due to the closure of the site,” he said.

Requirements

To start the business, one is required to have an authorisation of the district after specifying the dimension of the area they want to exploit alongside a detailed business plan.

The district signs a contract with the entrepreneur, who commits to safeguard environment.

“For example, we cannot give someone a go-ahead when they don’t have pit-latrines for the workers,” said Willy Ndizeye, the mayor of Gasabo district.

Authorities in Gasabo say most of the time sand miners do not abide by these commitments.

“They just look at their benefits and ignore the safety of the community,” argues Remon Berabahizi, the executive secretary of Kinyinya sector.

Kinyinya, with 15 sites, is home to most of the sand mining sites which Kigali relies on. However, Berabahizi said many of them fail to comply, which compels authorities to keep on the lookout.

“We ask them to split the land into four quarters and exploit them one after the other and as they move to the other part, they organise the previous one. We have realised that when they get authorisation, they exploit the land and leave it with holes,” he said.

Normally after exploitation, Gasabo district requires them to preserve the land by planting trees. Without this, many sites are at the risk of erosion while the holes become breeding grounds for mosquitoes when filled with stagnant water.

Berabahizi said sand mining is a business which attracts many investors since the product is always on high demand.

Kinyinya sector gets Rwf500,000 per day on average from taxing sand miners.

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