Hwange: Deforestation Accelerates Climate Change

The mushrooming of several mining entities in Hwange has not only brought fortunes but also a basket of negative environmental impacts.

An open space with heaps of coal rubbles is increasingly becoming a common sight at the Hwange coal mining town. The once thick Hwange forest which was a home to wildlife is also slowly fading away. The few trees left in the mining concession area have turned gray covered with coal dust raised by front end loaders when they ferry the mineral to the Hwange power station, and other thermal stations out of the town.

Hwange district boasts of an estimated seven coal miners which include Hwange Colliery Company Limited, Zambesi Gas, Makomo Resources, NicNel, South Mining PVT LTD and Dinson Colliery. Hwange is losing a countless number of trees to make way for opencast and underground mining operations. Charcoal production and veld fires have also contributed to deforestation.

Green Shango Trust, an environmentalist lobby group, says deforestation has contributed to climate change with negative effects for a coal mining town such as Hwange. Of late, Hwange is experiencing ever changing weather patterns including extraordinary high temperatures and heavy downpours linked to climate change.

“The trees are very important for the planet. All green plants take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen during photosynthesis,” the Trust says.

“A fully grown-up tree can convert 23kgs of carbon dioxide to oxygen. That’s why we emphasize tree planting. When forests are cut down, much of that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere again as CO2.” “This is how deforestation and forest degradation contribute to global warming leading to climate change,” the Trust explains.

Daniel Sithole, the Director of Green Shango Trust says Hwange is experiencing deforestation from mining activities, agricultural forests and land use (AFOLU), illegal charcoal production and veld fires. Sithole says there is a need for reforestation and rehabilitation of land where there are mining activities. This also includes reforestation atoll abandoned mine dumps, the introduction of fruit forests for carbon sink as well as alternatives for livelihoods.

“Mining companies should plough back to the communities through inceptions of sustainable projects, use of renewable energy for example solar, biogas and coal briquettes which are more environmentally friendly,” says Sithole.

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) urges mining entities to undergo Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process before any mining activities to prevent environmental damage. The EIA is an assessment of the possible impacts that a proposed project may have on the environment. It identifies alternatives and mitigation measures to reduce the environmental impact of a proposed project. EMA Matabeleland North Publicity and Education Officer Mildred Matunga says: “Miners are also encouraged to rehabilitate their land, environmental restoration programs should be prioritized for example, reclamation of disused pits and shafts.”

Chairperson of the Coal Producers Association Linos Masimuri urges coal producers to rehabilitate the land in order to avoid dangers to the environment.

“Our rehabilitation is in two parts as coal producers; we do backfilling to the already mined areas into the pit.” “Secondly, we need to make sure that the coal is fully combated to avoid underground fires which may have resulted in chemical reactions with the coal,” Masimuri says.

Environmentalist Bhekilizwe Zwelinjani urges Zimbabweans to embrace tree planting to save the environment. Zwelinjani plants at least 100 trees in Hwange annually. “I have a target of planting trees. This is because these areas have depleted forest resources like trees due to drought, building, charcoal production and mining,” he says. He argues mining activities in Hwange may last long if the environment is also protected.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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