Zimbabwe: Outcry Over Pollution in Hwange

Residents in the coal mining town of Hwange are concerned…

Residents in the coal mining town of Hwange are concerned about continuous environmental pollution by firms in the area.

The pollution includes dust, noise, land degradation, water pollution, and underground coal seam fires, leading to respiratory-related diseases like cancer, stillbirths, and deaths of livestock.

Aquatic life in the Deka River, which feeds into the Zambezi River, has also been affected by the pollution.

Women and children are reportedly the worst affected by the lack of clean water and sanitation facilities.

The residents have accused authorities for failing to regulate the companies, and calls have been made for responsible mining, awareness-raising campaigns, as well as barricades and signposts in areas at risk of fires.

Hwange residents have said cases of cervical cancer and respiratory-related diseases have become prevalent.

Over the years many people have been burnt by underground coal seam fires and one minor girl died while on admission to Mpilo Central Hospital after she was burnt to the waist by underground fires.

A Grade 3 pupil was left disabled on both legs after being burnt by underground fires.

Speaking at a media community engagement organised by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists in Hwange, residents complained about the failure by authorities to rein in companies that pollute the environment.

Hwange Local Board Council chair, Cllr Morris Mafa, Greater Whange Residents Trust programmes officer, Ms Sithembinkosi Ndlovu, and Environmentalist Mr Daniel Sithole, director of Green Shango Environment Trust, were the panellists.

Residents called upon authorities to compel mining companies to prevent pollution at source.

Mrs Gloria Tom’s Grade 3 son burnt a few years ago and lost both legs. Ms. Rejoice Magenga from Ward 8 said residents of Ingagula are the worst affected because of noise and ash dust from the Zimbabwe Power Company thermal power station.

“Pollution has worsened and you find that women and children are the worst affected because they relieve themselves in the bush as Hwange has no water.

There is too much noise and dust from blasting and trucks, and the pollution is affecting us causing cervical cancer with cases now prevalent.

“Many pregnant women have suffered premature births while others have given birth to disabled children because of the dust and air pollution,” said Ms Magenga.

She said dust also affects residents’ houses and clothes and they can no longer dry their clothes outside.

Ms Magenga said it was saddening that authorities accuse those burnt by underground fires of trespassing yet the areas are not marked or barricaded.

Mr Nkosi Sibanda, an environmental researcher, said residents are waiting for the outcome of an investigation by a German consultant engaged by Hwange Colliery Company on underground fires.

The report has not been made public for years after the investigations were done.

“One issue that stands out prominently in Hwange is underground fires and people want that report so that they know what to do. Water pollution is at its worst in Deka River and we believe the action point is to work with regulatory authorities to enforce policies,” he said.