Local authorities must follow EMA guidelines

A drive around most high-density suburbs, particularly Chitungwiza and Epworth, shows the shocking damage being done to the environment by sand poachers.

Reports say sand poaching is also rife in Bulawayo’s Magwegwe North, Nkulumane, Pumula and Cowdray Park suburbs. In Guruve a few years ago some families were actually forced to relocate as some of the gullies were encroaching into their homesteads.

Environmentalists say the sheer size of the gaping depressions is symptomatic of an environmental disaster.

Much of the landscape has been reduced to a rugged, depression-riddled terrain that is not good for anything else except a study of environmental degradation.

In areas where sand poaching is rife, the land has been reduced to bad-land topography.

A multitude of construction activities are currently taking place in Harare thereby increasing the demand for pit sand. Truckloads of sand are shipped daily from illegal extraction locations to construction sites.

The culprits are rarely stopped or questioned about the sources of the sand and its destination at roadblocks.

Usually these trucks, some of which are clearly unroadworthy, are allowed to pass through police roadblocks.

Zimbabwe promulgated the Environmental Management Act in 2002, but massive sand poaching remains the order of the day in many areas around the country.

Now the environmental watchdog, Environment Management Agency (EMA), has issued a list of guidelines to harvesters and traders countrywide. The guidelines affect all designated sand sites in the country.

On Wednesday, we carried a story in which EMA education and publicity officer for Mashonaland East, Astas Mabwe, indicated the legal requirement for sand harvesting was that local authorities should draw up environmental management plans (EMPs) as a way to curb damage to the flora and fauna that were put at risk by the illegal activities of sand poachers.

The local authorities should also produce maps showing where pit or river sand should be extracted and the plans should also indicate how rehabilitation would be managed after extraction.

However, the problem is these local authorities were not coming up with such measures to EMA.

The result has been people have lost lives after falling into these gullies after the area they were digging for river and pit sand collapsed.

Livestock has also been lost every year, apart from compromising the environmental value of the land as these illegal activities caused gullies and affected river systems.

Local authorities must see reason in what EMA is asking them to do because where people have scooped sand in their farms and roadsides, gaping holes have been left.

During this rainy season, heavy rains have washed away several bridges, while some sections are threatened with erosion due to huge gullies.

We believe EMA must enforce the Act and ensure the local authorities comply with the provisions of the laws. Other countries such as Tanzania and Kenya, for example, adopted these protective measures.

They have greatly assisted environmental watchdogs to ensure designated sand harvesting sites, gabions and dams are built at least 200 metres apart, and 50 metres from river banks.

Therefore the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management should assist EMA to ensure these sites are subject to the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Any person who sells sand must be expected to issue a receipt to the buyer and keep records of the sales for periodic inspection by EMA.

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