Wanton degradation of the environment in a mad rush for alluvial gold must be stopped immediately with the law prescribing harsh sanctions against offenders. In their gold-rush the environmental vandals rip up the bellies of riverbeds, leaving these sources of the life saving liquid truncated or their course diverted or poisoned and left to die painful a death with boomering effects for communities depending on them.
Dams also face certain death at the hands of gold panners, witness the tragic situation reported in Matabeleland South Province. The mercenary-like activities of gold panners have in the past threatened to leave residential homes in some urban areas keeling over or collapsing altogether.
Now the upshot of what appears to be a laissez faire policing of the environment by the powers that be has resulted in the forced closure by the Environment Management Board of Directors of part of the Globe and Phoenix Primary School in Kwekwe, some of whose structures are threatened with collapse by gold hunters.
But nowhere have the cheeky gold hunters arrogated unto themselves such carte blanche rights to do as they please with no-one batting an eyelid as in Matabeleland where the Mzingwane River, a major source of water for Beitbridge, West Nicholson and Colleen Bawn, has been polluted with chemicals such as cyanide used in the uncontrolled mining activities there.
Several irrigation schemes in the drought ridden Matabeleland South Province have shut down due to salutation of the river with such major dams as Zhove and Silalabuhwa under threat from chemicals used by miners which are finding their way into the water reservoirs. During a recent tour of part of Mzingwane River at Esigodini, members of the Environmental Management Agent were shocked to discover gaping tunnels and craters, some up to 20 metres deep, along the river bed.
Companies or individuals reportedly besieged the river to prospect for and mine gold armed with permits issued by the ministry of minds and mining development and which supersede all other activities.
As a result, the panners appear to dare anyone to challenge them, and one might be forgiven for suspecting that these people are covered by some powerful, anonymous political or other dons as to make them believe that they remain untouchable to act as they please.
The environmental board has urged locals communities, among other stakeholders, to ensure that no gold panning activity takes place along the beleaguered river without producing an Environmental Impact Assessment report. While the call on locals to protect their own environment is all very well in so far as it registers the concern of the Environmental Management Board, it will not succeed in curbing the mad rush for gold unless it is enforced by law.
The absence of such a law forbidding any and all mining activities not supported by an Environmental Impact Assessment report is a tragic weakness on the part of the Government in the present circumstances and a strong case exists therefore to remedy the situation.
Not only that. People who silt rivers and dams in their search for the precious metal should also be compelled by law to drag, the silted dams or rivers.
In fact, dragging equipment should be on standby and be inspected by experts before any panning activity takes place in areas pregnant with alluvial gold.
The present situation whereby the environment is harmed with no legal sanctions against offenders is the cause of blatant environmental degradation by people bereft of the fear of both the law and God.
Yet the environment is not a preserve of the present generation to do what it wants with it; rather, it is as much our basis of existence as it is of the existence of future generations and should therefore be guarded jealously along with what natural resources exists for present and continuing generations to enjoy.