GOVERNMENT should revisit the decision to grant Chinese companies mining concessions in the Gwayi conservancy, as their activities are likely to affect neighbouring countries’ water bodies and spark a row, an official has said.
BY MUSA DUBE
There are several companies that were controversially awarded Special Grants to explore and extract coal and coal-bed methane in the Matabeleland North province’s Hwange and Gwaai areas.
The chairperson of the Gwayi Sub-Catchment Council, Langton Masunda said mining in the Gwayi conservancy were going to affect both local and regional water bodies.
“Any mining activity in the area would produce pollutants like zinc, tar, sulphate and ammonia which would all go into the rivers, namely Gwayi and Shangani, that are in the area. Our relations with regional countries are going to be badly affected because Gwayi and Shangani rivers flow into the Zambezi and downstream, they will pollute the Mozambique water bodies,” said Masunda in Bulawayo last week.
He said the proposed Gwayi- Shangani dam would be futile if mining starts to take place, as most Chinese companies are going to operate within the valley, where the dam is going to be constructed.
“All the concessions of companies operating in the area are all within the valley where Gwayi and Shangani rivers are. So whatever mining activities will pollute the water. The dream to draw water from Gwayi/Shangani rivers would be over,” Masunda said.
“Questioning what project is better than the other is not being anti-government, but we will just be enlightening each other to revisit this particular idea.”
‘Foreign investors are after money’
Masunda said locals should take it upon themselves to protect the environment, as foreign investors were after making money regardless of the damages to the environment.
“Foreign investors are going to dig and go home because an investor is like a prostitute who is just after money. So let’s protect our resources so that the next generation will be proud us,” said Masunda.
The Gwayi Conservancy area is located on the periphery of Hwange National Park, the country’s flagship game reserve.
Hwange National Park is home to an estimated 45 000 elephants and various wildlife species.
Masunda said that mining activities would also destroy the wildlife habitat and socio-economic activities going on in the area, such as hunting.
“Zimbabwe and Botswana are countries with no fences and we can’t fence off our elephants. We are sharing a population of animals and there is a movement of animals between both countries.
“Zimbabwe stands to lose through any mining activities in the Gwayi area, because the animals will move away because of mining sound pollution, intensified poaching and this would have a negative impact on the tourism industry,” Masunda said.
He said some Chinese companies had so far caused an environmental disaster in Hwange.
“Those who have travelled to Hwange saw how those companies have polluted the area. At the exploration stage two aquifers were damaged and they can’t be repaired,” he said.
Masunda said the mining activities had also led to the destruction of some endangered species.
“It would be a mistake to issue out a licence to do mining as that will be detrimental to the environment. Mining cannot co-exist with wildlife. In the past 12 years we have never lost a rhino but since they [Chinese] have come, we have lost two of them,” he said.
The Gwayi Conservancy area is also home to the presidential herd of elephants, which President Mugabe made a decree in 1990 to protect in an effort to discourage poaching.
Some Chinese firms have been fined by the Environmental Management Agency for illegally mining coal in the Gwayi Valley area.