Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Copperbelt University Students Launch Green Ngwee Campaign

By Paul Shalala

Since 2013 when coins where re-introduced in Zambia, many have had mixed feelings about them.

Some have embraced them while others have not.

For example, all the coins below 50 ngwee are rarely used in transactions.

They are either kept in houses or thrown away by those who deem them to be of no value.

This is why some students at the Copperbelt University (CBU) in Kitwe have launched a campaign to raise money through the collection of these coins.

"We can use a container like this one. You open it in one area and keep dropping in coins, by the end of five years, i will accumulate a fortune which will spill over to my family," said Kasulubusa Mashonga, one of the co-founders of the Green Ngwee campaign.

The campaign is expected to encourage students to collect coins and raise funds for various purposes.

The collection of coins is also being done to conserve the environment.

"Eventually, this campaign should contribute to the Gross Domestic Product.

Economists argue that keeping coins as is the case with the Green Ngwee campaign can help students raise money for their day to day needs.

CBU Economics Lecturer Edna Litana, who also spoke during the launch of the Green Ngwee campaign held at the American Corner last week, feels the  will also help students reduce their dependency on guardians.

"By saving money, students can strengthen family relations. How can they do that? They can one day go to their parents and tell them they have saved enough to sustain them for a term or two," said Mrs Litana.

This is not the first time students at the Copperbelt University are collecting coins for a noble cause.

A few years ago, they launched a similar campaign and raised funds which they used to build a house for the vulnerable in society.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired on TV1's Newsline program on 5 May, 2017. You can watch the video here.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

World Bank's US$65.6M Credit Targets Zambia's Polluted Towns

World Bank Team with Central Province Permanent Secretary
By Paul Shalala in Kabwe

The World Bank has kick-started a five year environmental program aimed at alleviating the suffering of the people in three Zambian towns which are heavily polluted and whose residents have been affected by pollution.

The Zambia Mining Environment Remediation and Improvement Project is funded through a US$ 65.6 million credit facilitated by the World Bank’s International Development Association.

The project aims at reduce environmental health risks for people residing in polluted mining areas in Kabwe, Kitwe and Chingola Districts.

For the past 52 years, mining has been Zambia’s biggest revenue earner.

The country has largely depended on minerals, especially copper, for its survival.

The country is the second largest producer of copper in Africa and the third in the world.

However, this natural resource has its own challenges.

With over decades of mining having been done in Zambia, the legacy of mineral extraction has not been good.

In mining towns like Chingola, rivers and streams have been contaminated by the mines.

This has led to people getting sick while a handful have died due to pollution.

At an Action Aid-organised forum for residents of Chingola to speak out about pollution last month, many residents could not hide their anger.

“We have seen people die, we have seen people getting sick, we have seen water polluted. But nothing is being done to stop this pollution,” said Bernadette Mulamba, a Chingola resident and an environmental activist with the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

A few days earlier, Chingola Mayor Titus Tembo had complained of Zambia’s largest mining firm Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) of having polluted the Mushishima stream leading to fish die and villagers picking and eating it.

“KCM has polluted the.Mushihsima stream killing fish. Because of poverty, our people are eating the dead fish and some have become sick, said Mr Tembo.

The story is the same in Kitwe which hosts major mines.

Here, both air and water pollution has been reported.

In December last year, the Kafue river which supplies water to the city of Kitwe was polluted with high levels of sulphate which forced the Nkana Water and Sewerage Company to switch off water supply to the city which has over 500,000 residents.

This was followed by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) instituting investigations on seven mining firms which discharge water into the Mwambashi stream and the Kafue river.
ZEMA inspectors collecting samples at Muntimpa Dam

ZEMA inspectors took samples from the seven companies and tested them in three separate laboratories but to date, the results are still being awaited.

And in Kabwe, the legacy of lead and zinc mining is evident.

The town, which is infamously called a ghost town, is said to be the worst hit city in the world in terms of lead poisoning.

According to data from the World Bank Country Office in Zambia, studies done in 2003 – 2006 showed that the content of lead in soil in certain areas of Kabwe were as high as 26,000 mg/kg against the acceptable levels of about 10 to 50 mg/kg making the land unsuitable for residential and agricultural purposes.

With these case studies and accounts of real pollution in the three mining towns, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors on 20 December, 2016 approved the credit for the Zambia Mining Environment Remediation and Improvement project.

The project is expected to benefit 70,000 people who live in the areas heavily polluted by the mines.

On Saturday, a team of World Bank officials from the Zambian office and the bank’s international headquarters in Washington DC visited Kabwe to launch the project.

The team explained why the Zambia Mining Environment Remediation and Improvement Project is important to people in the three mining towns.

“Mining Environment Remediation and Improvement Project will be implemented for five years from 2016 to 2021. The project’s objective is to reduce environmental health risks on the local population which is associated with mining in criticall polluted areas of Kabwe and other Copperbelt towns,” said World Bank Country Manager Ina-Marlene Ruthenberg.

She revealed that the project will: “Clean up some parts of the old mining town of Kabwe which still has unacceptably high levels of lead in the soil and high Blood Lead level among children, resulting from the past lead mining in the area.”

And newly appointed Central Province Permanent Secretary Chanda Kabwe, who hosted the team in his office, pledged the Zambian government’s support for the project.

Mr Kabwe, who is just a few days in the office, spent the past three years as District Commissioner in the mining towns of Mufulira and Kitwe which are both polluted by mining.

“Having come from the Copperbelt where I saved in the mining towns, I pledge my support to ensure this project succeeds. Central Province is predominantly an agriculture area and pollution affects the crop. This could also affect food security. So we will ensure this project succeeds so we can fight poverty,” said Mr Kabwe.

The Project will work with the City Councils in Kabwe, Kitwe and Chingola to ensure that the impact in terms of implementation is owned by the respective local authorities.
The polluted Shimulala stream in Chingola

And leaders in the respective municipalities are happy that the project will alleviate some of the suffering their people go through.

Kabwe Municipal Council Director of Public Health Paul Mukuka had this to say: “In the past we have had JICA (Japan International Corporation Agency) and the Copperbelt Environment Project doing a number of studies in Kabwe. We hope the coming of the World Bank project will help save more lives from pollution.”

For Kitwe Mayor Christopher Kangombe, the project is more than welcome to the country's second largest city.

“We commend the World Bank for committing US$65.6 million to this project. We welcome this project and hope it will help us reduce the effects of pollution in Kitwe. We however wait to learn the scope of work,” said Mr Kangombe.

Kitwe-based Ministry of Mines Director of Mine Safety Gideon Ndalama will serve as the National Coordinator for the Zambia Mining Environment Remediation and Improvement Project.

In this role, Mr Ndalama will work with the World Bank, the three municipalities and the Zambia Environmental Management Agency.

“This is a locally entrenched project, we should all own it. This is the only way we will have sustainability,” said Ndalama.

In terms of benefits to the local people, this project targets to provide medical interventions to over 30,000 children.
The projects plans to reduce Blood Lead Level (BLL) by 50% among children under the age of 15.

Over 4,000 of these children are expected to be tested for BLL by 2022.

World Bank Environment Specialist Mwansa Lukwesa explains that the health component to the Zambia Mining Environment Remediation and Improvement project is important because pollution has effects on people’s health.

“The project will test and treat children under the age of five and giving them supplements. The issues of lead poisoning are linked with nutrition because most of the people affected are poor,” he said.

By the year 2021, the Zambia Mining Environment Remediation and Improvement Project is expected to reduce lead contamination in Kabwe by 70 percent.

Further, the project also aims to empower 500 women and unemployed youths with income generating activities which will keep them away from jobs that expose them to lead poisoning.

Due to lack of jobs, some Kabwe residents have broken locks to the tailing dams and opened them to have access to quarrying stones.

The Zambia Mining Environment Remediation and Improvement Project is the second environmental program the Bretton Woods institution has funded in Zambia to fight pollution in mine areas.

Between 2003 and 2011, the World Bank funded the Copperbelt Environment Project which produced some findings which the current project aims to build on.

Kabwe was at the center of lead mining from 1902 until the mine was closed in 1994.

Illegal stone quarrying in the former mine has continued and a recent tour by this blogger found some residents conducting driving lessons at the former mine site.

All these activities increase people's exposure to lead.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was also produced as a 7 minutes documentary which aired on TV2's Morning Live Program on 19 January 2017 and it was again broadcast on TV1's Newsline program on 20 January 2017. You can watch the documentary which aired on Newsline on this YouTube link: Zambia Mining Pollution Documentary

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Investigations Into Kafue River Pollution Completed

An aerial view of the Kafue river on the Copperbelt
By Paul Shalala in Ndola

The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) has completed its investigation on seven mining firms on the Copperbelt over last week's pollution of the Kafue River.

ZEMA Northern Region Manager Gift Sikaundi says the investigations team finished collecting samples from all suspicious sites and handed them over to three separate laboratories.

"We have handed over the samples to the Water Resources Management Authority laboratory in Lusaka, the Alfred Knight laboratory in Kitwe and the Nkana Water and Sewerage Company laboratory in Kitwe. We expect the results after seven days," said Mr Sikaundi during an interview at his Ndola office.

He has disclosed that during the investigation, ZEMA inspectors collected samples from various dams, reservoirs and streams in Chingola and Mufulira.

On Thursday last week, ZEMA launched investigations against the seven mining firms after sulphate was detected in the Kafue River the source of water supply to Kitwe, Kalulushi and Chambeshi.

The seven mining firms all discharge water into the Mwambashi stream which eventually ends up in the Kafue river.

The companies being investigated are Konkola Copper Mines, Mopani Copper Mines, NFC Africa Mining, Chambeshi Copper Smelter, Chambeshi Metals, Sino Metals and Bollore Africa Mining.

The investigations team took four days to collect samples from all water reservoirs and dams where the firms dispose off their effluents.

The discovery of the sulphate on Monday last week forced Nkana Water and Sewerage Company to shutdown its water supply to its customers for two days, leaving Kitwe's over 500,000 residents without clean running water.

The supply was only restored after the utility neutralised the sulphate.

The pollution is believed to have happened in the Mwambashi stream in Chingola District.

The investigators further believe that the contaminated water flowed from the Mwambashi stream to the Kafue river where Nkana Water and Sewerage Company detected it.

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.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Zambia Targets 5,000 Green Jobs By 2018

Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale (right) at the launch
By Paul Shalala

Zambia, with the help of cooperating partners, is targeting to create 5,000 green and descent jobs in the construction sector for its growing young population by the year 2018.

With unemployment levels high in the country, the government, through the Ministry of Local Government, is working on strategies which will create opportunities for young people to get employment.

Under the four years multilateral funded Zambia Green Jobs Programme, the southern African country hopes to also improve the quality of a further 2,000 jobs in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

According to the Zambia Green Jobs Programme's annual impact report for 2015, 2,660 green jobs have so far been created in the two years the programme has been running.

"At the time of the evaluation, the programme had supported the creation of 2,660 new green and descent jobs in micro, small and medium enterprises mainly in the North Western, Copperbelt and Southern Provinces," reads the report in part.

The report further reveals that the 2,660 does not include 3,600 casual jobs created through temporary and part time jobs.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Trade Center (ITC) and providing technical assistance to the Zambia Green Jobs Programme while the government of Finland is funding the project.

ILO is the leading agency on the project.

And Zambia Green Jobs Programme Chief Technical Advisor Tapera Muzira says the programme has partnered with many institutions to create descent jobs.

Tapera Muzira giving a speech
"We have partnered with many industries to create descent jobs...... We are also involved in the Environmental Impact Assesment..... Our aim is to create green growth and sustainable development," said Mr Muzira when he read a speech on behalf of ILO Country Director Alexio Musindo at the Zambia Institute of Planners' annual general meeting in Kitwe last week.

He reiterated the programme's desire to create the 5,000 green jobs by 2018 saying most of them will be created in the construction sector.

"The construction sector offers great potential for inclusive green growth and job creation."

Meanwhile, Local Government and Housing Minister Vincent Mwale says the threats of climate change are real and the world must act now to avert a catastrophe.

Speaking when he launched a book called Sustainable Housing Guidelines on Wednesday last week, Mr Mwale identified the construction sector as one industry which is key in fighting climate change.

"The construction sector is one of the emitters. We need to find responsible strategies which will help us fight climate change and create green jobs."

 At the same event, Zambia Institute of Planners President Cooper Chibomba warned that the nation can lose what it has achived if it does not act fast.

"If we do not act now, we can lose what we have achieved. As planners, we want to develop plans that will bring development to all in the country," said Mr Chibomba.

Since the Zambia Green Jobs Programme commenced in 2013, a total of $11,837,752 has been invested into the program which is expected to end in 2018.

The project is being implemented in five of Zambia's 10 provinces.

These are North Western, Copperbelt, Central, Lusaka and Eastern Provinces.

A number of companies, both local and international, have come on board and partnered with the Zambia Green Jobs Programme to create green jobs and employ green housing techniques..

For example, Kalumbila Town Development Corporation is building 10,000 housing units in the newly created Kalumbila District in the North Western Province.

The corporation, in partnership with VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, has constructed two demo green houses in Kalumbila and Lumwana.

With an investment of $100 million for the construction of the 10,000 houses under its 'Kalumbila Town Green Homes' project, the cooperation hopes to to construct houses which will present a bright and sustainable future with decent jobs.

Other major investors who have joined in the green jobs strategy include Lafarge Zambia and Barrick Lumwana.

 According to the Zambia Green Jobs Programme's 2015 annual impact report, 2.5 million people were reached last year in messages about green building principles through the media.

These messages are aimed at changing public perception about green technologies.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Environment-Friendly Farming And Use Of GMOs By U.S. Farmers

By Paul Shalala in Homer, New York
Cattle at McMahon's Zacres farm in Homer, New York

As the debate over the usage of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) rages on in Africa, farmers in the United States think GMOs are good and have no effect whatsoever.

In the small village of Homer in Cortland County, northern New York state, is the family-owned farm called McMahon's Zacres owned by brothers Michael and Peter McMahon.

The duo bought the 2,200 acres farm from their father in 1986 and since then, they have run it as a dairy farm and invested over US$10 million.

During a recent visit to the farm by this blogger, the owners revealed that the farm has at any given time 700 fully grown cows and 700 calves.

Being a dairy farm, all bulls are sold off and calves are only milked for 32 months before being sold off as beef.

Due to lack of workers across the United States who can at a farm, Zacres employs five Mexican immigrants who milk the cows three times a day using some of the latest high tech dairy equipment.
A Mexican immigrant milking cattle

One of the Mexicans found on duty was able to milk 150 cattle within an hour.

"Americans don't want to be dirty. We cannot find anyone willing to do this job, that is why we employ these Mexicans because they are hardworking," said Peter McMahon, a co-owner of the farm. 

The workers are also responsible for sweeping the bans three times a day after every milking session.

The cattle is fed by maize grown at the farm and only a few nutrients are bought to supplement the feed. 

According to Peter, the farm uses genetically modified organisms in cultivating maize which is used as feed for the milk producing cattle.
Peter McMahon

“We grow our own corn (maize) here to feed all the cattle. We use GMOs in all our fields and this goes well with our crops because they do not kill any organisms. We will continue using them, we will not stop because they change to carbon dioxide after 30 days,” said Peter.

When asked if the GMOs were harmful to the environment, Peter said its actually non-GMOs which affect the environment and kill wild animals.

“A long time ago we used pesticides to protect our corn. One such pesticide was toxic. Birds would collect and swallow it. They would fly a few meters in the sky and later drop dead. But the GMOs are friendly to the environment because they melt and disappear."

He adds that at the time they used to apply pesticides, worms used to die in large numbers but now they are plenty in the fields.

One of the maize fields at the farm
The farm has also adopted environmentally friendly practices due to the high number of residue that comes from the cattle.

The 1, 400 cattle at the farm produce enormous amount of dung on a daily basis and mishandling it can cause environmental problems.

Workers at the farm collect the dung and store it in a storage family before its dried and scattered in the fields.

According to company records, the farm produces eight million gallons of manure annually and if discharged in nearby rivers and dams, it could pollute both the water and the environment.

“We work with an environmental consultant who regularly comes to taste our soil for levels of manure. We also store the manure and dispose it off in environmentally friendly areas,” said Peter.

He also said that every three months, workers pour lime across the farm to neutralise the manure once it is disposed off.

The company has also adopted a policy of not planting maize near rivers and dams to avoid chemicals flowing from the fields to the water bodies.

The farm is affiliated to environmental bodies
This farm is a major producer of Greek Yoghurt in New York state and employs a fulltime nutritionist who looks after the cattle's feed.

Its environmental programmes have even been approved by the Cortland County Agricultural Environmental Management which promotes soil and water conservation.

At the state level, McMahon’s Zacres is a member of the New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program which promotes animal health, food safety and environmental stewardship.

The farm works hand in hand with Cornell University whose extension officers monitor the farm’s activities and ensure standards are followed and animals are kept in good condition.

The university, which is located in the neighbouring city of Uthica, is the only major learning facility in new York state which specialises in agriculture.

And in neighbouring Onondaga County, farmers and county agencies are working together to protect the picturesque Skeneateles Lake from pollution.
Skeneateles Lake

The lake is the only source of water for Syracuse, the third largest city in New York state.

Over 50 farms surround the lake which is estimated to hold about 400 million gallons of water.

On a daily basis, the Syracuse Department of Water Affairs pumps 40 million of gallons to the city which is over 100 kilometers away.

“On a daily basis we treat this water. We use chlorine and UV system to purify it. We pump 40 million gallons of water daily to Syracuse and it takes six hours for it to reach the city,” said Mike Lynn, Skeneateles Water Plant Manager.

The lake has been supplying water to Syracuse for over a century.

Skeneateles area has 50 percent of its land covered by forests while 40 percent is farmland.

Authorities in the area are now partnering with farmers to ensure they do not pollute the lake which is also a tourist spot for people who enjoy water sports and fishing.

“In the past years, we have spent over US$40 million to preserve the water and protect it from pollution. We work with 42 farmers and ensure they comply with environmental guidelines,” said Rich Abbott from the Syracuse Water Department who has worked with farmers in the area for 30 years.
Mike Lynn

Mr Abbott said county inspectors tour all farms to ensure there is no discharge of effluent in the lake and make sure all farmers follow laid down regulations.

He also said farmers in the area strictly practice crop rotation to ensure chemicals do not spoil the soil.

“To protect the lake from farming activities, all farmers have planted trees between the fields and the lake as a buffer zone.”

The Skeneateles Watershed Agricultural Program and the Syracuse Water Department work together to safeguard the lake from polluters.

According to the Syracuse Water Department, Skeneateles lake is fed by over 150 rivers and tributaries.

The lake is one of the 11 so-called Finger Lakes which flow from southern New York state and stretch northwards closer to the Canadian border.

They are called Finger Lakes because they look like fingers on the map.