By Rutendo Mapfumo
Hwange villagers who rely on Deka river for drinking water have implored the government to drill boreholes as the main water source is heavily polluted.
The river which flows through several villages is polluted posing a danger to livestock and communities that depend on it.
Deka River flows through Mwemba, Chachachunda, Mashala and Zvabo Makuyu villages with a population of approximately 6052 people according to Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.
Villagers claim pollution of the river started in the late 1990s by mining companies operating in the area who are accused of discharging effluent into the river.
Pasca Mpofu, Ward 9 Councillor said the water source has affected livestock which drink from the river.
“Our cattle and goats are highly affected as the water damages the reproductive system of the animals” said Cllr Mpofu.
He said most domestic animals which drink the water, allegedly suffer from still birth and some are unable to conceive as a result.
Studies conducted by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) revealed that acid mine drainage (AMD) from the mining activities in the area was affecting aquatic life in the river. AMD refers to the outflow of acidic water from a mining site. In most cases, this acidic water is a result of a mixture of air and other chemicals from the mines.
Other pollutants from mining activities such as coal dust or fines were cited as contributors to water pollution.
Rosemary Shoko from Chachachunda village said women were the most affected, as they were in constant contact with the water for domestic use.
“This is a crisis that needs urgent attention, and the delay that is taking place has become a great worry to us. We are the most affected as we must walk for several kilometres to access clean water. Our primary food source, which is fish, has decreased due to pollution.
“Most of the time when fishing from the river, we do not get anything because the fish have died, thus again putting us in a position to look for alternative relish. We are very worried about our health, considering that we are exposed to the contaminated water which makes our skins itchy when we bath with it, what are we going to eat when our animals are also dying from this calamity?” she said.
Although a Taskforce from the Hwange District Development Office summoned the mining companies operating in the area to drill three boreholes each in the affected communities, these efforts have been fruitless as some miners never fulfilled their promises.
Nyaradzo Masoja who chaired the Taskforce confirmed that so far no boreholes have been drilled in the affected areas although Hwange Colliery Company (HCC) is working towards repairing the malfunctioning boreholes at Zvabo Makuyu.
“So far no new boreholes have been drilled. Due to the economic constrains in the mining sector, HCC is working towards repairing some boreholes instead of drilling new boreholes. Other mining entities only went to the extent of surveying the communal lands for borehole drilling, but never did the actual drilling,” she said.
Mashala Village head, Patrick Nyoni said it is disheartening that villagers are still exposed to unsafe water since miners have defaulted on their promise to drill boreholes.
“We are disappointed at the pace these companies are taking in addressing issues of access to clean water. They pledged to drill boreholes sometime in March last year after effluent was discharged into Deka River killing fish and making our livestock sick. But since that time nothing has been done,” he said.
The unavailability of clean water in Mashala has forced villagers to walk distances of between 3km and 5km to access safe and clean water at a nearby village where there is a community borehole.
Nyoni said there is need to find lasting solutions to stop pollution or the responsible authorities need to push mining companies to drill boreholes for clean water for the villagers.
Meanwhile, Hwange Rural District Council Chief Executive Officer Phindile Ncube said his office is engaging mining companies to find a permanent solution that would eliminate pollution.
“As part of the solution in providing clean water for the community, Hwange Rural District Council as a local authority is drilling boreholes in these affected areas, as it is everyone’s right to access safe and clean water,” said Ncube.