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Who is to blame the EMA, community, or the company?

Compiled Susan R.Muchena-Marange Development Trust

20 September 2021

Where ever you go in any community in Zimbabwe most communities where mining is taking place have their fair share of problems that are mainly affecting them day and night and one turns to wonder where the government is or the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) are to stop this environmental degradation,water pollution,dust pollution.  One also wonders if such mining operations could have had environmental impact assessments (EIA) undertaken considering the destruction brought about.

On the 16th of September there was a meeting organized by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) where EMA was invited to meet communities from Marange and Chimanimani.From the teachings by Ms Alice Rutsvara EMA Manicaland’s spokesperson explained that EIA is a process of evaluating the likely impact of a proposed project or development taking into account inter related socio economic,cultural and human impacts both beneficial and adverse. The process must promote public participation through adequate community consultations. These consultations should involve all community representatives including women,children,youth ,elderly,disabled,churches,health,school and the local leadership .These meetings are spearheaded by the consultants who should explain fully the project to the community thus the community then contributes their expectations, so that they benefit fully instead of bearing the burden of irresponsible operations. She then asked why the do we blame EMA yet its the duty of the community to contributes what they want?

The local leadership, Mutape Chibuwe acknowledged that to some extent they are to blame as leaders. These consultants usually come without giving then time to discuss the project with the community thus they end up signing, without full knowledge of the project itself yet that is the important part which can improve their community. The other issue is poor communication of the message and even the language most community members find it difficult to understand. Distance is another barrier that has forced community members not to attend but since EMA do the ground truthing on who attend the meeting, they should state standard of a public consultation before issuing the EIA.

The communities acknowledged the importance of attending the consultation especially the EIA consultation which helps both the company and the community to explore the benefits and the challenges of the project, including coming up with ways on how to mitigate those challenges.Big projects like mining,road construction or dam construction are expected to have EIAs as it helps the practitioners and the government to measure the environmental damage. Many questions were raised on why a reputable company like ZCDC has been operating without an EIA certificate in the eyes of the EMA, the environment watchdog. After realizing that Zimbabwe Consolidated Mining Company was now mining in Tinoengana village very close by the houses causing dust noise and water pollution, the Marange Development Trust (MDT) decided to engage the company but nothing tangible was discussed thus we ended up engaging EMA.

Ms Alice Rutsvara explaining the EIA ground truthing process to the community at Hotsprings

On engagement with EMA we later realised that this diamond company has no EIA certificate, EMA failed to produce the certificate as we explained that it is the on the Zimbabwean constitution section 62 subsection 2 it clearly states that; Every person including the Zimbabwean media has the right to access to any information held by a person,including the state in so far as the information is required for the protection of a right but it was clearly that ZCDC did not have it yet it was violating the right to clean and safe environment ,right to clean safe and portable water.(Violation of rights on chapter 4).Small scale miners operating without EIAs are arrested like in Penhalonga and taken to court.Marange Development Trust after consulting ZELA about the situation, they approached the courts. It was noted that ZCDC breached the law by mining without a license from EMA but the company argued that it should be allowed to continue to operate until EMA approved its license application. Under the Zimbabwean law a mining operation can only start operating after carrying out an EIA process of its project which is approved by EMA. On August 2017 a ruling was passed by Judge David Mungota which ordered to ZCDC to desist from conducting operations in Marange until it has conducted an EIA process in accordance with the law.The questions still stands How far is ZCDC with the EIA process? If it has the EIA certificate which community was consulted and involved and what are their expectations towards sustainable development??

From the discussion it clearly showed that EMA was also neglecting the communities by letting companies mine without EIAs and some companies feel paying fines is cheaper that protecting the environment.We later agreed in the meeting that it is our duty as a whole to safeguard the environment for the future generations by having EIAs to promote sustainable development by measuring environmental impacts likely to be caused by the projects. The community should work hand in hand with EMA to protect the environment as the community knows their environment and can assess better if any changes arise.

In conclusion, EIAs are enforceable documents,thus we should as communities participate fully on the process and it is a requirement to mining companies.No company should be allowed to mine without an EIAs as this is the only document that helps us to have a good relationship with the company before it starts its operations.EIAs are mandatory whilst Corporate Social Responsibility is voluntary .

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