BY SILAS NKALA
The Hwange Local Board has expressed concern at the rampant illegal extraction of clay by brickmakers in the town.
Brickmakers use sewer water from the derelict Empumalanga sewer plant for their activities.
The board said while it acknowledged the prevailing economic challenges could be one of the major reasons exacerbating the illegal clay soil abstraction, the local authority was worried about the alarming rate of land degradation.
“Clay poaching activities continue to persist mainly due to the ever-increasing housing projects being carried out in Hwange urban and has resulted in massive deforestation and proliferation of open pits,” the board said.
“Such pits are becoming a danger to both human beings and animals with their existence more hazardous during the rainy season.”
The local authority said the clay soil poachers were using water from the abandoned sewer plant that finds its way to the nearby Kalope stream to mould the bricks.
It is worried that the practice poses many health risks for residents in the town.
“It is also of paramount importance to note that the Urban Councils Act does not permit developments such as soil abstraction within the confines of an urban area,” the statement added.
“As stated, in our earlier public notices have already referred individuals and firms seeking to embark on soil abstraction activities to Hwange Rural District Council and they have since been assisted.
“The board has continued to penalise clay soil poachers through the Environmental Impact Assessment Protection Regulations Statutory Instrument (SI) 7, 2007 in a bid to curb this illegal practice. However, suffice to say, council’s security details have been met with resistance and hostility from the poachers while carrying out their duties.”
The local authority was in the process of amending its by-laws so as to enable it to come up with stringent regulations aimed at regulating various activities within its area of jurisdiction.
“To this end, the local authority has consulted various stakeholders including the Environmental Management Agency, the district administrator’s office, and security forces [both the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Zimbabwe National Army] to assist in the removal of clay soil poachers and subsequent destruction of their operations.
“A process to reclaim and rehabilitate the dangerous exposed areas is being operationalised.”
There are allegations that council officials are involved in the illegal activities.