By Thomas Chidamba
Mashonaland West Senator Joseph Chirongoma has urged Governnment enact laws that protect rivers from artisanal miners who were contributing to siltation.
Speaking during the debate on Protection of the Environment in the Upper House recently, Senator Chirongoma said artisanal miners were destroying the environment.
“Of course they (artisanal miners) contribute to the economy by bringing in money to Government but they destroy the environment because they leave holes uncovered.
“After digging they look for where there is water to wash their gold ore.
“They say there is a relationship between their digging and water. They wash their gold ore in rivers until some rivers get silted and no longer carry or store water,” he said.
Senator Chirongoma urged Government to prohibit washing of gold ore in rivers.
“I suggest that the Government enacts very strong laws that prohibit washing of gold ore in those rivers because human beings, domestic animals and other animals no longer have access to water,” he said.
Bulawayo Metropolitan Senator Gideon Shoko also weighed in saying that Government should formalise artisanal mining in a bid to curb environmental degradation and loss of lives.
Senator Shoko said it was known that there was high unemployment rate in the country and artisanal miners contribute gold to Government through Fidelity Printers, but there was need to protect the environment for future generations.
“The artisanal miners go out there and start cutting trees and start digging and when they leave that placd they leave it unprotected because there are big holes that they would have opened.
“This act on its own is even dangerous to the human beings and animals that we rear.
“That on its own is another terrible situation that happens when the environment is grossly degraded,” he said.
Senator Shoko said it is understandable that artisanal miners want to eke out a living out of mining but their safety was also important.
“I understand why they are doing that because there is unemployment.
“Therefore they have to eke out a living but we then need to balance the situation with environment.
“If you want them to continue doing it what we then need to do is we have to bring them into the formal sector and discuss with them issues of safety.
“Besides the safety that I am talking about, the safety for themselves is also not very adequate, because sometimes we have heard that a lot of people perished in these particular holes where they go,” he said.
Section 73 of the Constitution obligates the State to protect the environment for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation, promote conservation and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources.