COMMENT: Panning activities within supply dams should be stopped Bulawayo City Council

BULAWAYO residents who have been subjected to water rationing for years as part of measures to conserve the limited water supplies, have since January this year been celebrating that the city’s supply dams now have adequate water. The residents have therefore been calling on the city fathers to upgrade the city’s pumping capacity to cope with the increased demand for water.

The council which has since responded to the residents’ demand to upgrade the pumping capacity to meet the city’s daily water consumption of more than 150 ML, is however, facing a new challenge of panning activities within its supply dams’ catchment area.

The city’s supply dams are Umzingwane, Mtshabezi, Inyankuni, Insiza, Upper Ncema and Lower Ncema which are all in Matabeleland South province where there is rampant gold panning. There are therefore, fears that the city’s water could be contaminated by chemicals such as cyanide and mercury used by panners and the panning activities could also cause siltation of the supply dams.

Council has since deployed rangers who are working with the police in a bid to stop panning activities but the teams are being overwhelmed by the panners.

The local authority said there is a need to beef up manpower on the ground but is being constrained by lack of resources. What is encouraging is that the council is saying the water is still safe from contamination and what is needed is to ensure that panning activities, especially within the supply dams’ catchment area, are stopped.

We want at this juncture to implore Government to assist the council with the required resources to ensure more rangers are deployed in the area.

Police need to also increase deployment of police officers to the area to assist the rangers. Some of the panners are reported to be armed and dangerous hence the need to ensure the rangers and police officers are adequately armed.

The other alternative is to organise the panners so that they engage in controlled panning or mining that minimises damage to the environment. This will involve the local leadership such as councillors and traditional leaders.

The Bulawayo City Council therefore, needs to engage all stakeholders including the Mines Ministry as it seeks a lasting solution to this challenge which threatens the city’s water supplies. We want to once again call for swift action to halt panning activities but as already stated, it might not be possible to rid the area of panners hence the need to pursue alternatives such as mobilising panners to form mining syndicates.

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