ENVIRONMENTAL Management Authority (EMA) recently ordered the closure of three Chinese companies that were setting up coke-processing and solar power plants in Hwange without conducting environmental impact assessments (EIAs) as required by law.
BY TINASHE MUNGAZI
Tutu Investments, Zimbabwe Zinghxon Coking Company (ZZCC) and South Mining were recently fined and ordered to stop construction of the coke processing plants without following due process.
ZZCC and South Mining have coking plants in Lukosi and Madumabisa, while Tutu Investment is reportedly linked to coke processor, Hwange Coal Gasification Company.
EMA Matabeleland North provincial manager Chipo Mpofu-Zuze confirmed the development.
“We did, indeed, receive a complaint that there are some companies that had started some work without EIAs. We made a follow up and identified three companies, and we issued them with tickets and order them to stop whatever developments they were doing. One of them has already submitted a prospectus, and we are yet to look at it. The other two have stopped and are still working on their documents,” Mpofu-Zuze said on Friday.
According to sources close to the developments, Tutu Investments and South Mining were setting up their operations next to a Hwange Colliery Company concession, while ZZCC had secured private land and begun bringing in equipment for the construction of coke processing and solar energy plants.
Officials from ZZCC – a joint venture between the Chinese and Zimbabwe Defence Forces – allegedly approached one Chihanga – co-owner of Deka Farm – and entered into an arrangement to set up a solar power station.
“The arrangement was such that the company would lease the land where it intends to set up a solar farm to generate electricity. However, one of the co-owners of the farm raised the alarm after he was surprised to find bulldozers clearing the area without his authority. He, in turn, reported the matter to EMA and police,” a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
According to the Environmental Management Act of 2002, before conducting an EIA for a project, a developer must submit a prospectus to the director-general, containing information regarding the assessment and the project, as may be prescribed.
When approving a prospectus, the director general may fix conditions relating to the scope of the assessment, of which the developer has to comply. The contents of the EIA report include a detailed description of the project, the likely impact it may have on the environment, mitigatory measures and monitoring among other things. Mpofu-Zuze said the agency had since embarked on an exercise to educate stakeholders and the public on statutes whenever a development project has to be undertaken.
Meanwhile, local communities have lashed out at authorities for sidelining them in the extraction of natural resources in favour of Chinese investors.
They argue that planning authorities deny them land to carry out brick moulding or quarry, forcing them to venture into illegal activities.
EMA recently fined and ordered over 500 illegal brick moulders in Hwange to cease operations, arguing their unsanctioned activities were decimating the environment.
Efforts to get a comment from the Chinese firms concerned were fruitless as they either refused to comment or could not be reached.