A civil society organisation, Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), commissioned a research titled, Environment Impact Assessment Report for Hwange Coal Mining Activities, which shows that local communities are in danger as the environment deteriorates.
Farai Maguwu, director, CNRG said Hwange was a disaster in waiting if the country does not change its energy policy.
“There is a continuous underground fire burning in the area posing a risk to human and animal life and we fear this would be an ecological disaster if nothing is done soon. The air quality is bad, toxic and it’s a health disaster,” Maguwu said, when he launched the report.
Maguwu said the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) was failing to regulate coal mining citing political interference.
“When we asked EMA why they have not been able to enforce the law against Hwange, the agency cited politics and powerful vested interests as hurdles to enforcing regulations,” Muguwu said.
EMA has the responsibility to monitor that all mining activities are done in an environmentally-friendly manner and levy fines where rules are being flouted.
According to the report, Dheka Dam is now heavily-polluted by acids from coal and the piped water to residents of the area has a strong yellowish colour.
CNRG also noted that Hwange was also not properly disposing waste or reclaiming pits after leaving mining sites.
The report noted Zimbabwe was sitting on 26 billion tonnes of coal reserves and mining about 3 million tonnes annually for export and firing the Zimbabwe Power Company’s Hwange Thermal Power Station.
Maguwu said coal and other fossil fuels were now regarded as dangerous to human life and accelerating global warming and the country should start considering other smarter and renewable energy sources.
“In the face of the global campaign against coal, we now have to think carefully and consider moving to clean coal technology though it is still very expensive and might be beyond Zimbabwe’s reach.
“We can also start to harness solar energy, particularly that we are a tropical country with lots of sunshine per year than most European countries that have adopted solar energy,” Maguwu said.