Dust in Ingagula Township a Health Time Bomb

Lower-grade workers at the Zimbabwe Power company live in a community with dust polluted air; the local board says they will soon relocate.

Ingagula township, a wholly Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority-owned residential suburb in Hwange, has been exposed to a dangerous health hazard, dust. The dust comes from moving trucks, which carry coal to Hwange power station, a coal-powered plant.

Coal dust contributes to dust inhaled by the township residents. Smoke and emissions from the Zimbabwe Power Company plant add to create the heavy air of Ingagula. Ingagula residents are exposed to various airborne diseases and respiratory-related infections.

Speaking to The Citizen Bulletin, Tawanda Mufiri, a resident, says it is a dangerous environment.

“The air we breathe here is different from other areas like Lwendulu in Number 1 and Empumalanga. There is a lot of dust from the trucks and smoke from the power plant; it affects the residents, children in schools and our local clinic.

But other residents blame the Zimbabwe Power Company for poor infrastructure and resources to avert such challenges.

“The company has some bowsers to water the roads at intervals. But it’s not enough. There is a need to construct concrete roads from Hwange Colliery Company to the power plant to avoid dust and then embrace technologies that reduce smoke in power production. All the smoke from the plant comes to the township; there was an error of setup,” says Lovemore Gumede.

The Zimbabwe Power Company, a subsidiary of Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, constructed the residential suburb for its low-grade employees and some operators. Ingagula Township is adjacent to the power plant for convenience, especially in cases of emergency.

The plant also has an advantage for its coal supply because of its proximity to Hwange Coal Company Limited and Makomo Resources. The movement of coal-carrying trucks around the clock raises dust which affects the residents in Ingagula.

The reporter could not access any records from the company’s health department. However, a 2017 Environmental Impact Assessment Report by the Centre for Natural Resources Governance noted that much of the visually recognisable air pollutants which rise over the townscape of Hwange come from the Zimbabwe Power Company thermal power station.

The report also noted that mining machinery that includes front end loaders and trucks transporting coal from the mining fields also adds dust levels into the air. Dust from the coal also settles on vegetation, affecting both plants and animals that feed on these plants.

“Studies have shown that exposure to dust and diesel fumes from heavy machinery on opencast coal mines can cause ill health in nearby communities and increases the prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, certain cancers and asthma,” says Farai Maguwu, the Executive Director at Centre for Natural Resources Governance

Currently, the Hwange power station’s expansion is a matter of concern as dust levels continue increasing. The expansion project has made the plant come nearer to the residence.

Zimbabwe Electricity and Supply Authority (ZESA) spokesperson Prisca Utete could not be reached for comment.

A previous visit by the minister of Energy and Power Development established that the entity had secured a new residence for workers and their families, with construction underway.

Hope has been given to the residents by the Hwange Local Board (HLB) after the latter allocated 300 stands to the Zimbabwe Power Company to relocate Ingagula Township to pave the way for the expansion of Hwange Power Station.

Recently, Hwange Local Board Engineer Philip Mguni said the 39 454 square metres of virgin land would accommodate ZPC workers currently residing at Ingagula residential area.

“We are working overtime to meet the deadline. Houses should be completed by October. According to ZPC, the first unit of the expansion project should be up by October this year, meaning those houses should be built by then,” says Mguni.

According to Mguni, Hwange Local Board has already identified contractors who will help construct the new suburb.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin