The Hwange Local Board (HLB) has expressed grave concern over the rampant clay soil poaching activities in the bushy areas of Empumalanga suburb for purposes of brick-moulding, in the process degrading the environment.
Soil poaching has become a common problem within and around urban authorities as Zimbabweans who are on the receiving end of a failed economy try to earn a living.
In a statement the HLB said the prevailing economic challenges experienced could be one of the major reasons exacerbating the illegal extraction of soil.
“The local authority is increasingly getting worried at the alarming rate of land degradation being caused by this practice,” said the HLB.
“Clay poaching activities continue to persist mainly due to the ever-increasing housing projects being carried out in Hwange urban and has resulted in massive deforestation and proliferation of open pits. Such pits are becoming a danger to both human beings and animals with their existence being more hazardous during the rainy season.”
The local authority said the clay soil poachers were using sewer water from the defunct Empumalanga sewer plant that finds its way at the nearby Kalope stream.
“This in the process causes serious health hazard to adjacent communities in the event of a water borne disease outbreak,” bemoaned the local authority.
The HLB said it had continued to penalise some soil clay poachers through the Environmental Impact Assessment Protection Regulations Statutory Instrument (SI) 7, 2007 in a bid to curb this illegal practice.
“However, suffice to say, Council’s security details have met resistance and hostility from the poachers while carrying their duties,” said the local authority.
“The local authority is currently in the process of amending its by-laws which will enable it to come up with stringent regulations aimed at regulating various activities within its area of jurisdiction. To this end the local authority has consulted various stakeholders including the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), the District Administration’s office, security forces (both the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Zimbabwe National Army to assist in the removal of clay soil poachers and subsequent destruction of their operations.”
The process to reclaim and rehabilitate the dangerously exposed areas, the HLB said, was being operationalised.
The HLB added that allegations about Council officials and some councillors being involved in clay soil poaching and brick moulding activities had not come to their attention yet.
“If the allegations are true, such actions are unfortunate and regrettable as we expect Council officials to be on the lead against such vices,” said the HLB.
“As a local authority we have an Environmental Management committee chaired by Councillor Godi Nyoni and it’s already seized with the matter of clay soil poaching. We expect the same committee to reprimand any Council official (s) that might be involved in this practice.”