BY SILISIWE MABALEKA
VILLAGERS in Ndengwende, which is popularly known as koMlalazi village in Lupane, are complaining about mass extraction of granite stones in their area, saying it is posing an environmental hazard.
The granite stones are used for construction purposes, tombstones as well as designing expensive kitchen fittings.
The villagers said the mass extraction of stones had left huge pits in their area, placing people and domestic animals in danger.
“Our livestock no longer has grazing land, and we are at risk of falling into pits. The open pits are a danger to humans and animals, especially at night. The level of disrespect saddens us as these people are looking for stones near our kraals,” a concerned villager said.
“The flora and fauna is getting disturbed. We tried to engage the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) about the issue, but we were given an unsatisfactory answer.”
The villager said collection of gravel and granite stones was being prioritised over livestock and people’s lives.
“At one point, I confiscated the tools of these granite extractors, and handed them over to the police. After some time, I was surprised to learn that the tools were returned to their owners,” he said.
Chief Mabhikwa, born Vusumuzi Khumalo, told Southern Eye that villagers were yet to raise the matter with him.
“Those extracting granite stones were doing government projects such as the emergency road rehabilitation programme. The gravel was used to fill potholes, but it is possible that some people are stealing the gravel for personal use,” Chief Mabhikwa said.
Ema Matabeleland North provincial manager Chipo Zuze said such activities negatively impacted the environment, adding that the environmental agency would monitor all illegal granite extraction activities in the area.
“Unsustainable stone or gravel extraction creates pits, which if not properly managed, can cause land degradation. Such activities entail land clearing, which exposes the soil to erosive forces. There can be gully formation, which can threaten infrastructure like roads, schools, dip tanks and homes,” Zuze said.
“The agency conducted a verification inspection and we observed that the Lupane Local Board was licensing local traders to get stones in some sites in Ndengwende. The stones were used for construction activities in Lupane as it does not have gravel.”
Zuze said Ema approached both the Lupane Local Board and the traders, and issued them an order to stop the illegal extraction of stones as it contravened environmental laws.
“The agency, together with its stakeholders such as Kusile Rural District Council, Lupane Local Board and the police, will ensure that the illegal activities do not resurface. All traders obtaining stones from unlicensed sites will be prosecuted,” she said.
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