The Sunday News
Midlands Bureau Chief
MORE than 11 000 hectares of land have been destroyed with rivers and dams facing siltation leaving farmers and animals without water in Midlands province due uncoordinated mining activities.
The environmental disaster has also led to miner/farmer conflict as well as humans /animals’ conflict over scarce water and pastures in the province.
Sebakwe Dam and Mutebekwi River in Kwekwe and Shurugwi respectively are some of water sources facing siltation because miners, both artisanal miners and big companies are allegedly engaged in mining activities along the dam and inside the river.
The mining activities have also led to the destruction of wetlands, buildings and deaths of human beings, livestock and wild animals which fall and get trapped in trenches that are left open by companies after extracting minerals.
According to the Environmental Management Agency gold, chrome and coal extraction have led to the destruction of 6128.28ha, 5036.34ha and 132ha respectively. EMA Midlands provincial manager Mr Bason Bhasera said a provincial land dialogue meeting organised by a local non-Governmental organisation the Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation (CCMT) in Gweru last week that the situation was getting out of hand.
“There is alleged corruption involving mining claims and unorthodox mining activities in the Midlands province that have led to an environmental disaster as over 11 000ha have been destroyed with rivers and dams running dry because of siltation,” said Mr Bhasera.
“Statistics from land degradation from chrome mining indicate that Chirumanzu has 1386ha, Gweru 50ha, Kwekwe 832.42ha, Mberengwa 511.08ha, Shurugwi 1129.05ha, Zvishavane 1127.79ha. Land degradation from coal mining in the province has been recorded in Gokwe North and the affected land is 132ha. Land degradation from gold mining activities has Chirumanzu recording 56ha, Gokwe South 68ha, Gokwe North 70ha, Gweru 120ha, Kwekwe 1858ha, Mberengwa 973ha, Shurugwi 2335.35ha and Zvishavane 647.93ha.” He said when his officers try to assess the level of land degradation, they are always threatened or told that the mining activities taking place have a blessing of a high ranking officials.
He also said in some areas like Shurugwi they have also been made aware that there are claim ‘allocating committees’ outside the official work of the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development
“We have an environmental disaster on our hands and the problem is that we have people in higher offices who are legalizing the illegal, we have people who are formalising the informal and it’s affecting everything. This land, this environment is a legacy we need to protect for the future generations but we have a problem of people who are personalising public offices leading to illegal, unorthodox mining activities which affect the rivers, the land, the human beings and the animals,” said Mr Bhasera.
He said the national road such from Boterekwa to Zvishavane is under threat from artisanal miners.
Mr Bhasera said the road especially at Boterekwa can collapse at any time as artisanal miners are still engaged in panning activities under the road.
In terms of wetland degradation, Mr Bhasera said there are 114 wetlands in the province of which 35 are in stable condition while 34 are moderately degraded and 45 severely degraded.
“The stretch of land affected by stream bank cultivation is 830.59km,” he said.
Mr Bhasera said from the earth-shattering levels of land degradation from mining activities, the local authorities were not getting a single cent but their communities expect them to reclaim gullies and provide clean water.
The Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Larry Mavima said mining activities should leave communities they operate in in a better position than they were before.
In a speech read on his behalf by a director in his office Mr Cleto Diwa, Minister Mavima said: “Mining host communities hardly benefit from the extraction of the natural resources and that must change. Mining companies must take initiative to leave the communities in a better position that they were before. We also need to see peaceful existence between the miner and the farmer.”
CCMT director Mr Wonder Phiri said it is important that stakeholders who include the Government, traditional leaders and mining community take steps to address the challenges that are arising from the extraction of minerals in the country.
He said Section 73 of the Constitution notes that every person has a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing and to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations.
“Through reasonable legislation and other reasonable ways, there is need to prevent pollution, and ecological degradation and promote conservation and ensure the promoting economic development. It has become clear that there are inherent conflicts (minerals extraction) that must be well managed otherwise there will be disruption in production and there is already loss of human life, livestock, pollution of rivers and this is contributing to long lasting devastation of the environment,” said Mr Phiri.
He said as CCMT, they have been playing a duty of solving conflicts arising between communities, the local authorities and mining companies in some districts. “We now feel that it is not enough as we are seeing the rise in incidents across the board. We have engaged EMA resulting in the culmination of this workshop in the hope that we all work together be it the farmer and the miner or the local authority and the miner for socio-economic development,” said Mr Phiri.