BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO city fathers have resolved to engage the army to deal with artisanal miners working on Upper Ncema, threatening the ability of the dam to supply water to the city.
This comes at a time when residents are going for days without water due to a tight rationing regime because of low water levels at the supply dams.
A latest council report, by the future water supplies and water action committee laments the presence of artisanal miners at Upper Ncema, who are causing massive degradation to the dam.
Upper Ncema is in Matabeleland South, where there are rich gold deposits. The report concedes that municipal rangers were losing the fight to the miners, who are armed with dangerous weapons.
As a last resort, city fathers said their only option was to engage the army to deal with the illegal miners.
“It was resolved to recommend the (1) increase in the number of rangers at the dam and engage the police and possibly the army to remove the panners from the area. The police and rangers on the ground seem overpowered and can risk their lives as the panners are fully armed with destructive tools like machetes,” the report read.
It added: “This matter needs to be taken to higher levels as this matter is getting out of hand. (2) Continuous engagements with all stakeholders, especially the Ministry of Mines, local leadership and all relevant members to curb this issue as it is seriously affecting the only water sources for Bulawayo City.
“Upper Ncema Dam water level has reached 5,96% … Some of the rivers or tributaries and dam sections have dried up, leaving the bed exposed. One on these dried tributaries has exposed some gold deposits, which have attracted the attention of illegal gold panners, who have come in their hundreds to the spot.
“This poses a high risk to the dam and water supply for the City of Bulawayo. These panners are digging up the riverbed, loosening the soil in search of gold deposits.”
The gold panning activities were causing environmental damage and also damaging equipment and polluting the water.
The council report read: “The gold panning activities will aff ect plant and animal species in the dam as they are sensitive to alteration of both the sediment supply and flow regime … The gold panners camp on-site, cutting down trees for fire wood to cook and keeping warm at night.
“Gold panners will leave the landscape damaged and leave the holes/ditches all over the place. There will be an increase in diseases because there are no proper ablution facilities and proper disposal of garbage.”