Friday, 9 December 2016

Environmental Inspectors Start Probe On Kafue River Pollution

ZEMA inspectors picking samples at Mutimpa Tailings Dam
By Paul Shalala in Chingola

The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) has commenced investigations to establish the mining firm which polluted the Kafue river with sulphur forcing the Nkana Water and Sewerage Company to shutdown water supply to Kitwe for two days.

On Monday, the utility detected high levels of sulphur in the river and shutdown its water supply to Zambia's second largest city Kitwe, leaving its over 500,000 residents without water.

Water was only restored late on Wednesday after Nkana Water and Sewerage Company neutralised the sulphur in its reservoirs.

According to the utility, sulphur was discharged into the Mwambashi stream and it flowed into the Kafue river where the utility gets its water for residents of the mining towns of Chambeshi, Kitwe and Kalulushi.

Bivan Saluseki, the spokesperson for Nkana Water and Sewerage Company said the shutdown was done to protect people's lives and the firm was doing everything possible to ensure no one is harmed.

And Kitwe District Commissioner Chanda has pointed the blame at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), the country's largest mining investor which runs mines in several towns on the Copperbelt region.

"As government we will not allow KCM to continue polluting our water sources. We shall put up punitive measures to stop this practice," said Mr Kabwe in a telephone interview.

KCM is a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources PLC, a London-listed mining firm.

The firm runs the Konkola and Nchanga mines in Chingola.

Today, a team of inspectors from ZEMA visited Muntimpa Tailings Dam in Chingola's Kasompe area to test the water for sulphur.

Muntimpa is the largest tailings dam in Zambia and its estimated to hold over two million cubic meters of tailings material from KCM's operations.

The dam contains both natural water from nearby streams and effluent from the mines.

Water from this dam flows into the Mwambashi stream which discharges its water into the Kafue, one of Zambia's largest river
Water flows out of Mutimpa Dam into the Mwambashi stream

The inspectors were led by Ray Chafilwa, a Kitwe-based ZEMA inspector.

They collected water samples from various points on the dam and also tested the water for acidity.

The collected water has been taken to a laboratory and results from the samples are expected to be released tomorrow.

This is the second time environmental inspectors from ZEMA have inspected KCM facilities within 24 hours.

KCM is not new to allegations of polluting rivers on the Copperbelt.

It has in the past been convicted and fined by Zambian courts for pollution.

Currently, there is an ongoing court case on KCM and its parent company Vedanta in London were activists have sued the Indian-owned mining giant on behalf of the over 1,800 Zambian residents who have been affected by the alleged pollution.

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