22 April 2022
Compiled by Ngoni. T. Maunga, Tildar Nyakunu and Zvaitwa Katsidzira.
The mining of diamond in Marange came with destruction and pollution of the environment due to land degradation, deforestation, discharge of effluents, blasting, and dust emissions. Lack of progressive rehabilitation of land and implementation of precautions to lessen pollution of water and air has affected community health and safety. Thus, several Community-Based Organisations and Trusts were formed to advocate for environmental protection and sustainable mining that fosters socio-economic development. The Trusts have environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) and Community monitors (CM) that were trained. However, polarization, militarization, and lack of technical knowledge in monitoring as new laws and technologies continue to roll in pose a challenge to EHRDs. Therefore, continued training by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) and Environmental Management Agency (EMA) are ushering an increased awareness in host communities about environmental management, Environmental Laws, Constitutional rights, legal framework, and technical knowledge involved in matters to do with business and human rights, natural resource protection and governance.
Courtesy of EMA and ZELA, ZIDAWU and other Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) from Marange converged at St Andrews mission. Twenty-two (22) participants were trained on independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and knowledge on EIA which is timely given the EMA amendment which is underway. The training raised awareness on the importance of understanding Environmental Impact Assessment. Mrs. Chipunza, Environmental Officer from Environmental Management Agency unpacked the EIA in a way that made EHRDs understand that it is not the whole EIA document that matters when checking the compliance of mining companies to environmental laws and regulations but the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) section. This section articulates how the company will address the environmental impacts of its mining activities. This comes as a new lesson as most monitors present were not privy to this hence the complaints that the document is voluminous and inaccessible to the majority.
Mrs. Chipunza also stressed that EIA enables communities to effectively assess implementations of projects by investors/company(s) operating within their community. Thus, when consultations are being done it is important to identify the impacts according to their class (determined by scale and size of operations) to find effective and viable solutions. Thus, knowing and engaging with the relevant authorities like local leadership, and the council is essential in identifying potential impacts and collaboratively finding mitigatory measures to these impacts.
The other eye-opening explanation was of knowing and seeking to understand the nature of mining as this is essential in finding solutions to environmental impacts. Knowledge of different types of mining impacts is also important, for example, short-term impacts mitigation measures are different from those of long-term, the same with reversible as opposed to irreversible impacts. Thus, knowing the difference will ensure that community monitors advocate and lobby for specific measures to different and specific impacts at relevant levels. This also goes to understanding the financial capacity to know whether the company will be able to implement its EMP or will be incapacitated and find better or alternative solutions that are cost-effective and within the capacity of the mining company.
Participants were encouraged to acquaint themselves to the legal framework that governs the activities of mining companies operating within and around communities. The right to access information as is provided for in section 62 of the Constitution could not be overemphasized as it was made known to the participants that they can approach EMA should we need to follow up on EIAs of companies within our domain.
Sharing experiences from Greater Hwange Residents Trust, Mr. Fidelis Chima buttressed the above-mentioned fact by narrating how their organisation followed up on a coal mining company in their area. They obtained the company’s EIA assessed it and even managed to successfully challenge some grey areas found in it. The remedy was achieved and according to Mr. Chima the host mining community is in harmony with the miner. This experience sharing unveiled to participants from the Marange community several skills critical in fostering investor compliance to projects agreed upon during engagement processes, investor transparency, and accountability.
The participation of Mutare Rural District Council C.E.O Mr. Chinaka and the ward councilor Mr. Banga at the event also revealed how Environmental monitors could work hand in hand with Rural District Council as they have Environmental communities at Ward level that assists in monitoring the implementation of the Environmental management plans of various organisations and entities at ward level. Their presence provided a good starting point in mapping good working relations between communities and responsible authorities. Participants were very appreciative of ZELA for their continued pragmatic support which strengthens the work of Community monitors and EHRDs in advocating for environmental protection and sustainable use of the environment for present and future days. Coming immediately before Earth Day, the communities were empowered in protecting the environment and mother earth for coexistence between humans and nature.
ZIDAWU Information Desk.