By Rumbie Mbewe
The Zimbabwe Christian Alliance last week launched a half a million-Rand project in Hwange focused on rehabilitating land damaged by mining processes in the area while promoting environmental accountability by companies involved in extractive work.
In an interview with 263Chat, ZCA Executive Director, Reverend Useni Sibanda disclosed that the one year pilot project will run under the theme ‘Communities for Environmental Action’ and will be implemented in areas under Chief Whange and Chief Nekatambe.
“We will be partnering with other stakeholders who have expertise on environmental issues so that they guide accordingly on how we handle these issues. A year from now we hope to have learned from this pilot and be able to scale up the project as well as expand into other areas where we can ensure a more sustainable manner of exploitation of natural resources that will preserve the environment,” he said.
Rev Sibanda said besides looking at environmental issues, they also intend on bringing the element of conflict transformation skills to church leaders to enable them to resolve conflicts that may arise in the community.
“Communities will also be equipped with skills on how to engage with the mining companies. The pilot project intends to develop a model of how communities, stakeholders and mining companies could work together to be good stewards of the environment whilst creating space for sustainable exploitation of natural resources,” he said.
Zimbabwe is one of the countries that have been affected by climate change and the government has committed to the protection of the environment as part of its obligation under the Zimbabwean constitution.
“As a nation we have signed up to international protocols that we must adhere to. This project will have a component of communities holding the mining companies to account on ensuring that exploitation of natural resources in Hwange is done in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner,” said Rev Sibanda.
Speaking during the launch meeting, the District Development Coordinator, Mrs Nyaradzo Masocha said the initiative being spear headed by ZCA was very crucial especially this time that there are so many mining companies coming into the district that need to be taken to task on how they are rehabilitating the environment after extracting minerals.
“This district has so many minerals and there are many mining companies that are exploring these minerals hence we cannot avoid land degradation. There is need to have rehabilitation programmes after the extraction of these minerals so that we continue benefitting from our natural resources. I am very happy that we have organisations such as the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance coming in to help us come up with ways of rehabilitating our environment,” she said.
She mentioned that there are some companies who have begun the process of rehabilitating boreholes in some of the areas such as Mashala who have been affected by the Deka river water pollution.
“Currently there are two companies working to rehabilitate boreholes in Mashala for people to access clean water. If we have more projects like this then I am sure that were going to have these companies owning up and fixing these problems so that people in the community are not disadvantaged,” she said.
The project is informed by the current influx of extractive projects in the district that have negative social and environmental consequences. The most affected people neither have the power to oppose these developments nor properly participate in decisions to alleviate harms and access to benefits from the developments.