14 June 2012

Mozambique: Contaminated Soil Used to Kill Fish for Market

Photo: David Gough/IRIN
The wife of a fisherman wades out to meet her husband returning from fishing in the Zambezi River near Mopeia in Mozambique.

Maputo — Residents living in the vicinity of the Muziba irrigation scheme in the district of Nicoadala, in the central province of Zambezia, are selling fish caught using soil contaminated with obsolete pesticides.

According to Samson Cuamba of the national directorate of environmental management, contaminated soil is collected by the fishermen from an area where obsolete pesticides have been disposed. Cuamba warned that this practice is a serious health hazard.

In August the authorities will begin collecting samples for laboratory tests from soil and water suspected of being contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

Eleven areas have already been identified in the provinces Maputo, Gaza, Sofala, Nampula, Zambezia, Cabo Delgado and Niassa.

This initiative comes under the project to mitigate the effects of obsolete pesticides which was launched last year.

In Maputo province three areas have been identified, said Cuamba.

The first is at the waste treatment centre in Matola, where the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) gathered pesticides collected in various parts of the country under a project which took place between 1999 and 2002.

According Cuamba, there is also a suspicion of soil contamination on the premises which used to house the provincial directorate of agriculture in Matola, where obsolete pesticides were buried.

The third suspected area is located in the village of Timanguene, in the district of Magude.

"We also have a delicate situation at the N'guri irrigation scheme in Cabo Delgado province, where we know that pesticides and fertilisers have been dumped in the vicinity of the water source", explained Cuamba, quoted on Thursday's issue of the daily newspaper "Noticias".

Cuamba also mentioned a region in the district of Chokwe, in the southern province of Gaza, where a pesticide spraying airplane crashed two years ago, contaminating the surrounding area. He added that there are reports of soil contamination in the Quimijera irrigation scheme, also in Chokwe.

He continued, in Niassa province there are signs of soil contamination on the premises of the provincial health directorate.

At the port of Nacala, according to Cuamba, the authorities have found two 40-foot containers laden with obsolete pesticides, while in Sofala there are reports of contaminated soil at the offices of the company Entreposto Commercial between Tica and Nhamatanda, due to the uncontrolled disposal of about three tons of pesticides.

Cuamba explained that soil samples will be collected in all these areas to evaluate the severity of the problem.

Two options are being considered to deal with the problem of contaminated soil, and the final decision depends on the laboratory tests.

The first option consists of treating the soil. The second option would be to remove the contaminated soil, which could involve its export to a country which has the facilities for its disposal, or its burial in a dedicated landfill site for hazardous waste like the one in Mavoco, in Maputo province.

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