THE fight over control of the Green Pool, formerly Ethel Mine Quarry, in Mutorashanga has reached a crescendo with the Chinese-owned Amazon Minerals allegedly disregarding objections over drawing water from the resource.
The community signed a petition calling on Parliament and Zvimba Rural District Council to stop the Chinese miner from establishing a chrome processing plant.
There were fears that the chrome processing plant would cause environmental degradation.
The petition attracted the attention of the Parliamentary portfolio committees on mines, tourism, environment, and defence.
The Green Pool had for years attracted weekend revellers for braai and water sports.
However, when Amazon started constructing the processing plant, the community raised concerns over the possible indiscriminate use of water.
Farmers also raised pollution fears on a nearby stream.
The Zimbabwe Independent recently visited Mutorashanga where they observed workers from Amazon drawing water from the Green Pool, while some were erecting a small fence at the sludge pool.
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Investigations revealed water loss from the pool while there is massive pollution of the nearby stream.
Sludge pools established for the plant have also been emitting contaminated water into the stream.
Villagers and farmers, in various interviews with the Independent, expressed anger for being disregarded by their community leaders and Chinese investors.
Peter Taranja, a farmer and resident at the adjacent Feoch Trust, described Amazon officials as arrogant. He said they were refusing to engage the community.
“We engaged them over the pools after I lost five goats but they seem ignorant or refuse to follow environment management regulations. They refused to fence off the pools. I have tried to talk to the management but they just ignored me,” Taranja said.
He bemoaned the indiscriminate water use from the Green Pool, adding that the activities were affecting the water table of the area.
“Our boreholes are not producing sufficient water and this can be attributed to the water being drawn from the Green Pool,” Taranja said.
“The water processing plant has also polluted the water. Villagers and farmers will soon be without water even for laundry.”
Kelvin Tendanhamo, 25, bemoaned how workers from Amazon had destroyed braai facilities at the pool.
“I was earning at least US$30 every weekend from the visitors who appreciated how we were keeping the place and showing them around,” he said.
“The Chinese have installed a pump drawing water from the pool and we are worried the water will be exhausted soon.”
The drawn water, approximately four metres deep, has exposed some artefacts used by deep water divers during their training.
Deepwater divers use a boat, motorbike, Citroen vehicle and a one-sitter plane to mark distances completed during training at the pool.
“All those activities including other water sports are under threat because of the way we are losing the water from the pool,” Tendanhamo said.
The receding water levels have also divided the political and community leadership in Mutorashanga.
There are accusations and counter-accusations on who granted the investor a right to use the water.
Clemence Gonde, a resident who led the petitioners shared his heartbreak over developments at the Green Pool.
“And the Parliamentary committees’ findings on the matter are also a process. It took so long for the responses to come,” he said.
“We were afraid that Parliament would rule in favour of the Mines and Mining Development ministry which stands for the activities being carried out at or near the pool.”
Gonde further told the Independent that Amazon Minerals director Rob Williams had allegedly pleaded with the local leadership to temporarily draw water from the pool.
“It was agreed that this would be granted if Williams met certain laid conditions that included setting up ablution facilities at the pool and other facilities for tourists,” . We agreed that Amazon would immediately stop drawing water from the pool if levels start receding,” he said.
“The other condition was that drawing water from the pool was supposed to be done during a stipulated time, for example, two hours a day excluding weekends when we expect revellers.”
One official accused of disregarding concerns from the community, Andrew Boma, refused to comment on the matter and went further to demand a face-to-face interview at the Green Pool.
“Did you get a comment from the one taking water from the pool? I am not prepared because l cannot see you in person,” he said.
Zanu PF Zvimba Ward 15 councillor, Sandram Kembo acknowledged reports of abuse at the pool.
Contacted for comment, Williams denied reports of water abuse and pollution at the plant.
“We are not using water from the pool and we have several boreholes at the plant. We are not using the water because l agreed with the community,” Williams said.
He also said Amazon had started constructing toilets for visitors at the pool.
Government has, however, declared that the place was a mining claim with no plans for tourism development.