VILLAGERS and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) are up in arms against mining companies that are polluting Mazowe and other rivers in Mashonaland East province, through their operations that are exposing villagers and livestock to health hazards.
EMA, a body responsible for promoting sustainable utilisation and protection of the environment in the country, said most alluvial mining companies did not carry out Environment Impact Assessments (EIAs) before starting operations.
They said alluvial mining activities, particularly for gold, cause serious river siltation and expose water sources to toxic chemicals, such as mercury and cyanide which are dangerous to humans and livestock.
Joseph Kapfunde (62), of Nyandoro village under Chief Chinyerere in Pfungwe area, said most people in the village were now drinking dirty water because of the uncontrolled mining operations by the companies.
"We now have a problem of drinking water -- all the water in this area is now dirty," he said. "This is the water that we use for drinking and laundry. These companies are supposed to drill boreholes for us."
Kapfunde added: "Even our livestock is in danger, because of the deep pits they have dug, as you can see there is no fencing."
EMA's environment and education publicity officer for Mashonaland East province, Astas Mabwe said the agency was not happy with the way mining companies were carrying out their operations, which exposed both humans and livestock to health hazards.
"As EMA, we are not happy. What is here is just the tip of the iceberg of the mining activities that are taking place along Mazowe River," he said. "We have got mines that stretch from Nyaguhwi River down to the end of Rushinga."
Mabwe said mining companies are required by law to carry out EIAs and explain how they plan to rehabilitate the river banks and ensure that the communities downstream will get clean water, before mining operations commence.
EIA is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project development, such as dam construction and mining, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse, before operations resume.
Garry Cornelius, a senior official with Lightweight Gold Mining Company, one of the firms operating in the area, said the company had drilled a borehole for the affected community.
The company has also employed some of the locals at the mine, he said.
"We need to put food on the table and employ people," he said. "When the positive outweighs the negative, then I think we should come together and focus on those positives and be able to apply them where it is possible to enable the nation to progress," Cornelius said.