Tanzania: First VP Wants Sand Mining Pits Used for Economic Benefits

THE First Vice President (1stVP) Othman Masoud Othman has raised concern over many open pits left behind by sand miners in various parts of Unguja and Pemba Islands, directing respective executives to see how the pits can be used for economic benefits.

"It is sad that the pits were left open, exposing risks to people, including children in case of floods during rainy season," he said in Pujini village after inspecting Kwareya area, which was badly damaged by the unplanned and illegal sand digging.

The tour is part of his several visits to inspect the level of environmental degradation caused by human activities and climate change.

He said that Zanzibar has limited land, therefore that it is necessary after the sand excavation for building or construction purposes to have restoration efforts that include planting of trees.

Since 2017 authorities in Zanzibar warned against reduction of nonrenewable natural resources, mainly sand and pebbles, due to unplanned and illegal mining for the booming housing industry.

The government imposed sand digging business restrictions in many areas in Zanzibar, causing complaints from people and investors before it was lifted in 2019, but with guidelines.

In Zanzibar, the control, maintenance, and management of non-renewable natural resources is under the Department of Forestry, which is responsible to protect, conserve, and develop for the social, economic, and environmental benefit of present and future generations of the people of Zanzibar, but environment issues are under the First Vice President's office.

The VP noted that the issue of environmental protection is not limited to the Zanzibar Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA), but to individual citizens and government institutions, "So we must work together to ensure that the effects of environmental degradation do not increase in Zanzibar."

He urged officials to be aware that the issue of environment protection does not need to be reminded by the country's top leaders and that it is important for government institutions to create a culture of sharing information with citizens to help restore the resources after its use.

Earlier, Mr Othman visited Kiswapanza inhabited small Island in Pemba South District, where he witnessed the effects of seawater affecting farmers' fields and destroying peoples' crops.

He observed that environmental challenges in Zanzibar are great in various parts of the country, where many parts of Zanzibar have been washed away by floods caused by sea rise and environmental degradation.

Commenting on pits left after construction of roads and other public works in the Islands, Engineer Khamis Masoud Khamis from the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, who coordinates engineering works in Pemba said that there is need for each district to allocate a special area for sand mining instead of relying on one area to maintain all road construction in Pemba.

While in Kisiwapanza Island, the Vice President was handed over the construction project of 'Kisiwapanza School Tank' for harvesting and storage of rainwater. The UNESCO Resident Director in Tanzania, Mr Tirso Dos Santos handed over the tank built by the organization at a cost of more than 42m/-.

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