ENVIRONMENTAL degradation in Uzumba, Maramba and Pfungwe (UMP) district has become a haven of massive land ruin.
It emerged during a recent tour organised by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) last week that the area, which also bore the brunt of extremely high temperatures, has increasingly become arid, making attempts to carry out agricultural activities a futile exercise.
Along the 30km stretch from Chitsungo shopping centre into Pfungwe, a few women could be seen walking along the road balancing either buckets of water or maize meal on their heads.
At Mazowe River, one could see a number of new mining machines including, earth movers, generators and water pumps used in the extraction of alluvial gold along the river. The mining activities have had a negative impact on the environment.
The river was in a sorry state due to the mining activities. It was blocked at each side, with heaps of soil occupying the middle section. A small, man–made river channel was constructed on the far end of the main river channel to direct water to the other end.
It is massive siltation that has choked the water body. At the river bank is a large tract of land that has been dug up, leaving deep pits.
One of the miners in the area, an American national, Garry Cornelius whose Light Weight Mining Company is behind this environmental degradation said he was aware of the massive siltation and his mining company was on a mission of de-siltation of the river.
“Mining has its negative and positive effects to the environment and I am aware of the siltation, but I can assure you that we are set for de-siltation of the riverbed where we are going to remove all the soil on the riverbed and rejuvenate the channel,” he said.
He said his company will be the first to exercise de-siltation in the country.
A few metres from the mine, women and children were busy fetching water from the river oblivious of how their future was bleak due to the effects of the massive land degradation.
“We depend on this river for water. This is where we get our drinking and cooking water since there is no other source of water in this area. We appeal to the mining company not to contaminate the water and we beg them to remove the oil that is piling on the riverbed or rather construct a pool for the betterment of our lives,” said Joseph Kafura, a villager.
Cornelius however, said his company was giving back to the community.
“The company is giving back to the community. We constructed a 38km long road, drilled one borehole and moreover we are sending more than 200 children to school,” he said.
EMA’s Mashonaland East Province Education and Publicity Manager Astas Mabwe said his organisation issued a $5 000 ticket to the company for operating without an Environmental Impact Assessment.
“There is massive environmental degradation happening in this area as a result of mining and recently, we issued Light Weight Mining Company a ticket for operating without an EIA document,” he said.
“They have stopped mining until they get it and they need to exercise maximum caution as far as environment conservation is concerned.
“Mining activities are causing massive siltation in Mazowe River and if this problem is not curbed the effect will be felt soon.”
Although the company was issued with a ticket, one wondered if the amount of money would be enough to restore the lost glory of Mazowe River.
Light Weight Mining Company however, is not the only one operating along Mazowe River, as there are several others whose operations are also detrimental to the environment.