Gold panners threaten Byo water supplies

Bulawayo councillors have resolved to engage the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) as they are struggling to deal with illegal gold panners that invaded the city’s water catchment areas.

The illegal panners are reportedly diverting water from Umzingwane dam, one of the city’s supply dams.

This has resulted in a lot of raw water being lost to mining pits along the riverbed.

The local authority was forced to decommission the dam in early September due to low water levels.

With the rains starting to fall, councillors have raised concerns that illegal mining activities along the water catchment areas will affect water inflows into the dams further compounding the city’s water woes.

Debating on the matter during a full council meeting on Wednesday, councillors said there was a need for an urgent solution to the issue.

This is after the deputy mayor councillor Mlandu Ncube had enquired from the Future Water Supplies and Water Action Committee on their strategies to ensure that there are significant inflows into the city’s supply dams.

In response, Ward 27 councillor Alderman Siboniso Khumalo said as a committee they were having challenges in dealing with the illegal miners.

“We do not have the power to remove those people that is why we are engaging the relevant authorities. There was also an expression of interest that was flighted for interested people to help rehabilitate the catchment area. That is a long process since we are not the ones issuing out the tender,” said Ald Khumalo.

Bulawayo mayor Solomon Mguni also enquired if efforts had been made to engage government departments to act on the matter.

The committee chairperson Councillor Sikhululekile Moyo said while the city was drawing water from Umzingwane dam, it did not own it and could not undertake certain actions without following proper procedures.

“We are in discussions with the government and EMA on the issue so that they intervene,” she said.

The deputy mayor added that there was no council resolution that empowered the Town Clerk to act on the issue.

“The challenge we are going to have is that at this time next year we will go back to the residents to inform them that the dams did not record significant inflows. We are aware of the challenge and we should be engaging other stakeholders and we rehabilitate the catchment area,” said Cllr Ncube.

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