MUTARE – Mining companies in Marange have been a thorn in the flesh for environment pollution regulators as they are usually uncooperative while delays by police in issuing clearance letters have also compounded the problem, a senior Environmental Management Agency (Ema) official has revealed.
Speaking during a Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) indaba here, Kingstone Chitotombe said his organisation was having a difficult time carrying out its mandate because of resistance from local players in the mining sector.
“Police clearances could take time to be processed and often prevented us from promptly reacting to reports of pollution. In some mines even when we had police clearance we would not gain access as some would require special clearance from their head offices forcing us at times to turn back as we sought that clearance,” Chitotombe said.
A 2012 report prepared by biological scientists from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) first confirmed that pollution of water ways in Chiadzwa were killing livestock and causing a plethora of health complications in the area.
Commissioned by Zela, the study revealed massive pollution of Save and Odzi rivers and their tributaries.
The report revealed high concentrations of iron, chromium and nickel, with the latter two metals scientifically proven to be potentially cancer causing agents.
The water was also said to have been contaminated with high levels of fluoride, which puts residents at the risk of dental and skeletal fluorosis, diseases affecting teeth and bones respectively.
“The metal concentrations, especially that of chromium, which is carcinogenic (cancer causing), are of particular concern being close to or higher than World Health Organisation standards for drinking water. The problems of bacterial contamination in the water are of serious concern and pose an immediate risk of outbreaks of waterborne diseases,” reads part of the report.
It also noted “far-reaching socio-economic implications for the livelihoods of local communities”.
Meanwhile, villagers relocated to Arda Transau also raised concern over wanton cutting down of trees in Odzi by soldiers stationed at Grand Reef whom they felt were going scot free.
“While villagers are arrested for felling a single tree soldiers are using chain saws and clearing huge tracts of land with impunity. Is it because environmental laws do not apply to them?” a villager queried at the indaba.
Chitotombe, however, said his organisation was not aware and would take appropriate action.
“We have taken note of this; no one is above the law,” Chitotombe said.