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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« on: September 21 2012 »

New study shows dam-dependent Zambezi Basin unprepared for climate change
International Rivers

An in-depth study warns that new and proposed dams on Southern
Africa's largest river are ill prepared to withstand the shocks of a
changing climate.

more: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/84221
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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« Reply #1 on: September 22 2012 »

Storm gathers over Mana Pools

September 21, 2012 in News
A STORM is gathering over the scenic Zambezi Valley due to controversial
plans — which are not eco-friendly — to establish heavy mining operations
along two major rivers which feed into Mana Pools, one of the world’s most
pristine wildernesses and a leading tourist attraction in Zimbabwe, amid
fears the nation’s natural heritage might be irreparably damaged if
politically-connected miners overpower environmentalists.

Report by Tendai Marima
At the centre of the row is Zambezi Society — a non-profit conservation
organisation formed in 1982 — and Habbard Investments (Pvt) Ltd, a
subsidiary of a local mining company GeoAssociates (Pvt) Ltd.

The clash is intensifying as environmentalists step up their campaign
against determined efforts by miners to explore the area for commercial
benefit.

Environmentalists say the area is a national heritage and must not be
sacrificed on the altar of corporate interests that largely benefit
shareholders.

This has raised echoes of the recent invasions of Save Valley Conservancy by
top Zanu PF politicians and army commanders who have now been ordered by
President Robert Mugabe to vacate the area.

However, Habbard, which sources say has powerful political links, is rigidly
determined to scour the riverbeds of Chewore and Ruckomechi for heavy
mineral sand deposits.

Habbard managing director Paul Chimbodza this week refused to clarify
whether his company has political heavyweights behind it trying to
intimidate environmentalists.

“We can’t be talking to the media, we don’t talk to them. Ngatingomirira
zvirikuitwa (Let’s wait for what’s being done),” Chimbodza told the Zimbabwe
Independent on Tuesday, before hanging up his phone.

Habbard is determined to proceed as it sees money-spinning opportunities
because of the abundance of heavy mineral sand deposits in the Zambezi
Valley which are used as raw materials in the manufacture of paints and
dyes; enhancing colour in plastics, paper and rubber; in cosmetics and
pharmaceuticals; and in producing titanium alloy metals needed in aircraft,
spacecraft and medical prostheses.

Although Habbard has contracted Impact Assessment Consulting (Impaco) to
conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA), environmental groups have
warned explorations would be ecologically devastating to Mana Pools.
The Zambezi Society has since engaged Impaco, Environmental Management
Agency (EMA), Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ), National
Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, Lower Zambezi Tour Operators and Unesco
national commission in a bid to save the area from mining invasions. A
committee has been set up to deal with the issue.

So much is at stake in this dispute. Habbard wants to make a fortune through
heavy mineral sand deposits while environmentalists, who are also
benefitting, want to protect their treasure.

Mana Pools is a wildlife conservation area in northern Zimbabwe constituting
a national park. It is a region of the lower Zambezi River where the flood
plain turns into a broad expanse of lakes after each rainy season.

As the lakes gradually dry up and recede, the region attracts many large
animals in search of water, making it one of Africa’s most renowned game
viewing regions.

The area covers 2 500-square kilometres of river frontage, islands,
sandbanks and pools, flanked by forests of mahogany, wild figs, ebonies and
baobabs, and is one of the least developed national parks in Zimbabwe and
the region. It has four pools which are part of an extensive 10 500-square
kilometre national parks and wildlife reserves.

This unique park is a Unesco World Heritage Site, based on its wildness and
splendour, together with the wide range of animals, over 350 bird species
and aquatic wildlife.

It was saved from a hydro-electric scheme in the early 1980s which would
have seen the flooding of this world heritage site with the country’s
biggest concentration of hippopotamuses, crocodiles and large dry season
populations of elephants, buffaloes and other animals.

The spoiling of the Zambezi River itself is also an issue in this dispute.
The river is Africa’s fourth largest and one of the finest and least spoilt
in the world. Its basin is larger than the Sahara Desert and flows through
eight countries in central and southern Africa.

It is rich in biological diversity. Its wetlands, aquatic systems, riverine
woodlands, montane forests, dry forests and savannahs are all complex
eco-systems which support abundant wildlife and a great diversity of trees
and plants; some species are native only to the Zambezi region. It has
magnificent wilderness values which are becoming increasingly attractive to
the international tourism market.

However, these valuable national resources are now at risk.

Zambezi Society says on September 10 last year, the Ministry of Mines and
Mining Development issued two exploration licences to Habbard which intends
to prospect for copper, lead, titanium and other minerals along the banks of
Ruckomechi and Chewore rivers which feed into the Zambezi.

Habbard claims to be the first in Zimbabwe to attempt sand mineral
exploration along the 45-km long Rukomechi and 65-km long Chewore rivers. It
says an EIA to determine economic viability and ecological sustainability of
the projects currently being undertaken by Impaco, a Harare-based
environmental consultancy firm.

“Habbard Investments is required by law, to undertake a series of
environmental impact assessments. These assessments seek to establish the
likely impacts of mineral exploration activities and to recommend how
proposed operations should minimise such impacts,” Chimbodza said recently.

Although Zambezi Society claims that up until July Impaco was not listed as
a consultancy approved to carry out EIA by EMA, an Impaco employee told the
Independent this week an assessment was currently taking place.

Habbard convened a stakeholders meeting in Harare on August 31 attended by
representatives from over 50 public and private sector organisations to
discuss the issue. It explained to stakeholders its proposed mining methods.

“Excavation of one-metre deep pits in the sand of the rivers; drilling of
augur holes every 1km down the centre of the riverbed, Habbard is not
insensitive to the environment and fragile nature of Mana Pools,” Chimbodza
said.

The Zambezi River basin contains mineral-rich sand eroded from higher plains
and while Chimbodza says Habbard will only go down one metre, copies of a
2011 exploration licence for Ruckomechi River show the company could
potentially excavate as deep as five to 16 metres.

Zambezi Society said on August 12 Habbard’s operations would pose too great
a threat to flora and fauna in the World Heritage Site.

“We believe that there should be no mining (prospecting or exploration
included) in this area because of potential impacts on its biodiversity,
wildlife and sensitive eco-systems, which are globally important, and on its
wilderness areas which are valuable to international tourism,” Zambezi
Society spokesperson Sally Win said.

“Furthermore, World Heritage status is not awarded lightly. There are less
than 200 sites worldwide on Unesco’s ‘natural sites’ listing; and in the
society’s view, Zimbabwe’s national interests will be best served by
maintaining the integrity of the area, and prohibiting activities such as
mining that will result in its degradation and possible loss of its World
Heritage status.”

Zimbabwe currently holds five World Heritage Site titles for man-made and
natural historic sites, which include Great Zimbabwe, Khami Ruins, Mana
Pools, Matobo Hills and Victoria Falls.

Unesco programme specialist in natural sciences in Harare, Guy Broucke, said
on Tuesday the World Heritage Committee had contacted the Zimbabwean
government over the highly controversial issue.

source: http://www.theindependent.co.zw/
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