SOME MPs yesterday called for the closure of the country’s sole ethanol producer, GreenFuel, accusing it of defying environmental laws with impunity and dumping large volumes of toxic effluent into the river system.
SENIOR PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER
The call came after Environmental Management Agency (EMA) director Mutsa Chasi told members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment that GreenFuel had defied several orders to obtain an Environmental Impact Assessment certificate and continued to pollute the nearby Jerawacha, Zvazwi and Save rivers.
Chasi said since 2011, EMA had issued three tickets to GreenFuel, but they still failed to comply and a docket was also opened in 2013, which was still pending at the Mutare Magistrates’ Court.
She said on February 22 in 2011 GreenFuels did submit an EIA document, but they failed to pay $1 million, which is 5% of the total cost of the project fees which was required in order for them to be issued with an EIA certificate saying they had no money.
Chasi also disclosed GreenFuel said it had no money to invest in a bio-digester which costs about half a million to control the pollutants.
Committee chairperson Gokwe Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena (Zanu PF) said: “Is it that there is political interference and maybe you have been called by some politician to say you should not deal with them as required by the law? Why is it that small companies and sand poachers are caught, shut down and given tickets (fines) every day?”
Gutu North MP Ticharwa Madondo added: “Why is it that you are failing to close down GreenFuel despite the serious breaches of the law, and the fact that they are denying the community their rights to a green and safe environment and instead are posing a death threat to them through their pollution?
“Why don’t you just switch them off just like what Zesa does when one defaults in payment?” asked Vungu MP Josphat Madubeko (Zanu PF).
But, Chasi said it was impossible to close the firm, and urged Parliament to amend the environmental laws so that they carry deterrent penalties like $25 000 daily fines.
Said Chasi: “The plant produces 300 000 litres of ethanol per day and 1,2 million litres of effluent per day. They dilute this waste water with some water from Save River at a ratio of 1:8 (one part of effluent to eight parts of Save River water.
EMA carried out inspections and found out that Jerawacha, Zvazwi and Save rivers were polluted to the extent even cattle found it difficult to drink the water and an alternative source was 20 kilometres away.”
Chasi said 12 parametres were being dumped into the water or soil which did not comply with the laws of the country, disturbing oxygen levels and making it difficult for living organisms on land and in water to breathe.
“We need at least 15% of dissolved oxygen for living organisms to live, but when we took GreenFuel samples it was only 1% and that is why cattle were finding it difficult to drink the water. Our PH level (acidity level) is at 6% minimum and 9% maximum, but GreenFuel were emitting at 4% which is very acidic, and impacts on the health of the people, animals, plants, soil and fish.
A University of Zimbabwe scientist did an independent study and said in 20 to 30 years time the soil and water will be destroyed,” Chasi said.