January 20, 2022

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Rivers By Nature Play A Critical Role In Water Provision-EMA

By Shingirai Vambe

Climate, social and economic situation across Africa has caused a paradigm shift from indigenous ways of living this goes by a statement of no hope “living by the day” not sure if tomorrow will ever come, such is the case in Zimbabwe.

Means for survival is everyone’s primary objective on a daily basis as the sun rises and as it goes down to make sure they put food on the table.

All young boys and girls, women and men scramble for precious mineral, gold, which in most cases for under resourced individuals get the yellow metal through panning.

The danger comes when it comes to the environment, flora and fauna.

8 out of 10 provinces in Zimbabwe have large mineral reserves, with gold on top of the list which is found in two forms either reef or alluvial.

Large scale and mechanical or riverbed mining is relatively an economic activity which spread in earnest from around 2011 in Zimbabwe, targeting mainly major rivers and their immediate tributaries.

Associations and groups have been formed, trying to formalism the activities of these miners, it has however been noticed that they are also contributing to the national fiscas but to what effect?

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) told Post On Sunday that a total of 1555 km of the river channel has been affected, including the riverine ecosystem.

“Mining activities of this nature has affected the riverine ecosystems through water pollution, siltation and degradation of river channels, thus affecting the capacity of these vital ecosystems to deliver goods in their best quality and quantity”

In Manicaland the alluvial mining activities has left the Mutare River, Penhalonga and Tsvingwe area dilapidated deep pits and holes, dirty water and silted river stream.

The activities in these areas has seen the manifest of corruption, selective application of the law, gaps in the Ministry of Mines and the spirit for means for survival by Zimbabweans in moments of lack.

MUTARE river is the same area where Russians (DTZ) used to mine and they used heavy equipment to extract gold in the riverbed.

EMA spokesperson Amkela Sidange told this publication that the use of heavy equipment such as dozers, tippers, excavators and front end loaders in alluvial mining results in several impacts to the immediate and downstream environment and the whole catchment landscape ecosystem.

“A recent survey carried out by EMA, established that an estimated 421.84 ha of riverine ecosystem has been degraded through alluvial mining or river bed mining in Zimbabwe and the most affected major rivers include Mazowe, Uzingwane and Angwa among others”

Sidange further stated that the alluvial mining in Zimbabwe is prohibited according to Statutory Instrument 104 of 2021, except under certain specific conditions which specifies that alluvial mining can only be done under a written authorization by the minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry; and submissions of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for review in terms of Section 97 of the Environmental Act as read with section 3(2).

Efforts to get a comment from the minister of Mines and mining development were fruitless as his mobile went unanswered to respond on the measures Government is putting to deal with the over spreading mining activities across the country which has lost its logic and order.

In Mashonaland west mining activities are being done everywhere even in the field, homesteads and farms posing a possible threat to the environment, process of one acquiring a certificate or claim to mine in certain areas thus affecting the current mapping exercise of Mines in Zimbabwe.

EMA highlighted that for sustainable mining activities, rehabilitation among other numerous abatement measures, has to be carried out in order to try and restore the mined areas to their original state and utilize the land for other productive activities thus putting the land impacted by mining activities back to a sustainable usable condition.

“It must be noted that most of the alluvial mining sites have not been Rehabilitated satisfactorily and some have been abandoned, and left to the mercy of fugitive illegal planners, thus perpetuating the degradation” Sidange said.

It has also come to light that the Agency is in the process to rollout a rehabilitation programme for Mazowe, Uzingwane, Manzimudaka, Angwa, Mutare, Nyamukwarara and Haroni Rivers degraded ecosystems and a call for interested companies with capacity to Rehabilitate degraded rivers has since been made.

The costs for rehabilitation of riverstreams and dams is very expensive and if it is due to mining activities, it may in most cases account for as much as 10% of mining costs hence a clarion call to mainstream environmental protection in an form of development as it is costly not to do so.

As the world forges ahead in the decade of ecosystem restoration with clear understanding that health ecosystems act as a pacifier in the fight against calamities of climate change, rivers by their nature play a critical role in water provision, ecological integrity and community livelihoods, hence the call by Government through EMA and the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.