WATER is a precious, yet finite resource essential for life. In most rural communities access to fresh water supply remains a challenge, especially in the dry regions.
For villagers of Mangwadza in Buhera South, Save River has predominantly been their main source of water for both domestic and agricultural use. However, in September the Save River course that passes through Mangwadza completely dried up for the first time since the 1992 draught.
Mangwadza villagers said this was because of the slime dams constructed at the former Diamond Mining Company site in Chiadzwa which have cut off the water flow upstream drying up the Save River course downstream.
The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company resumed operations at the mine in April this year. ZCDC now holds the claims of all diamond companies in Chiadzwa after the companies ceased operations in February.
Speaking at the launch of a campaign held on October 4 targeting Chiadzwa mining companies which was running under the theme,“ Gem miners, clean up Save River”, Jane Myambo, a villager from Mangwadza said she was so grateful to the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association for its borehole projects, which saw Mangwadza village getting two boreholes.
“We no longer had any safe clean water for domestic use as we could no longer use Save River water due to pollution from the Chiadzwa diamond mining operations,” said Myambo.
She however revealed that after ZCDC took over the Chiadzwa claims the pollution problem in Save and Odzi Rivers had been dealt with.
Muyambo said the new problem was now of slime dams constructed by the ZCDC that have diverted the original water course leading to the drying up of Save River downstream.
Livestock in the area no longer have drinking water whilst some villagers that used to rely on the water for their garden projects are now finding the going tough ever since the river course dried up in September.
Villagers are now resorting to digging holes in the dried river course in search of underground water, for their livestock as well as for irrigating their gardens.
“We used to get water from Save River to irrigate our gardens and sell the produce at the market and earn a living, but now with no water flowing in the river it is so difficult to irrigate using water from boreholes because we have to travel almost 5kms to get to the boreholes,” Said Liniah Rukombo
In their solidarity speeches with Mangwadza community, representatives from ARDA Transau, Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT), Save Odzi Community NET and Marange Development Trust(MDT) said they were so grateful to ZELA.
They thanked ZELA for not only drilling boreholes in the dry rural communities but also for the trainings and empowerment initiatives for communities in mining regions.
“We now know how to fight for our rights as communities affected by the diamond mining operations. Mining operations affected us socially, economically as well as affecting our environment. We used to fish in Save River and sell the fish to get income we would use for school fees and other basic necessities. But due to pollution we no longer have fish in Save. Many villagers also lost their livestock due to the pollution of Save and Odzi rivers. We also feel there is need for compensation as the mining companies did accept responsibility for the pollution,”said Malvern Mudiwa
Headman Nelson Mangwadza said he was also grateful for the efforts by ZELA through the boreholes project. “I would like to thank ZELA for providing access to clean water in our village and other surrounding areas. Slime dams at the DMC site have blocked water from coming downstream. We strongly appeal to the government to open up Rusape Dam so that water can flow before the onset of the rain season. At the moment the boreholes we have, we are sharing with livestock and use the water in our gardens as well which means they might dry up early,” said Chief Mangwadza.
Speaking at the same event ZELA gender officer Nyaradzo Mutonhori said as ZELA they saw it important to have community monitoring programmes and initiate legal action against Chiadzwa diamond companies to protect the environment and the rights of villagers in the mining communities.
“We have also since started women’s forums in affected communities to steer empowerment projects and environmental awareness campaigns however to date the problem remains the fact that that diamond mining companies admitted to pollution of Odzi and Save rivers but there is no compensation and the water is still dirty which is why we are starting this campaign,” said Mutonhori.
Similar campaigns were held at Musee village in Buhera and Goko village in Chipinge.