By Robert Tapfumaneyi
A MINING rights watchdog says the country’s addiction to coal was not healthy for citizens adding this did not only go against Zimbabwe’s own policies and strategies but globally agreed frameworks also.
In a statement, Centre for Natural Resources (CNRG) said coal investment in the country was a misplaced priority.
“Coal extraction and burning not only has serious environmental impacts on land, water and air, but has social impacts on the human population too, resulting in many succumbing to chronic diseases such as tuberculosis,” the lobby group said.
“Further, coal has been singled out as the major contributor to global warming through high carbon emissions.
“In Zimbabwe, communities that host coal mining companies have nothing to show despite a gloomy environment that is coupled with extensive damage of flora and fauna.
“This creates an ecological debt that investors will not bear the burden but the communities.”
CNRG went on to say Zimbabwe should maximise and take action on its renewable energy potential which is not only eco-friendly but also sustainable.
“Zimbabwe should halt coal related investments and focus on tapping the renewable energy potential, such as solar energy,” CNRG said.
“This entails civil society lobbying for the central government to allocate more financial resources towards financing renewable energy, as reflected in the national budgets.
“The government must show political will in implementing policies and frameworks that promote affordable low carbon renewables to the people and priority should be given to mining companies that are willing to invest in low carbon emissions.”
The lobby group also said Corporate Social Responsibility has been a problematic issue between local communities and extractive industries.
“In most instances, little developments that have taken place serve to benefit the interest of the corporates to allow for the easy transportation and extraction of the precious resources,” it said.
“Whilst a lot of environmental degradation will be taking place affecting the local communities there is very little if any to show for the resources – hence the term privatising profits whilst externalising the cost to the community.
“Mining firms are causing land and water pollution and destroying road networks but also failing to plough back to the communities impacted by their businesses.”
For instance, the Hwange community has suffered much harm at the hands of the HCCL and other mushrooming coal mining companies.
In a petition directed to Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coking Company (ZZCC), the community expressed concern on the effects of pollution caused by shunting trucks carrying coke from the plant to external markets.
Villagers indicated that the dust has affected the Lukosi Irrigation Scheme and yields have gone down over the years.
The dust also affects Lukosi primary school and Lukosi hospital and there are similar concerns about water pollution on Deka River by the mining companies that discharge effluent into the water body, killing livestock and fish downstream.
There is also a need for communities that host coal sites need to be sensitised on the Climate Change Response Strategy and National Renewable Energy Policy so they put pressure on the central government to implement the its own renewable energy policies and international commitments.