MBERENGWA: Villagers in Mberengwa’s Poland area are living in fear of chemical poisoning as some illegal miners are using dangerous substances to separate gold from ore in the nearby Mwero river.
The villagers have since called on the responsible authorities to get rid of the illegal miners to save their livestock and gardens which are their source of livelihood.
“Our cattle drink from this river and very soon we will be losing our livestock. Once livestock drink from the once trusted source of water surely, they would have drank from a poisoned chalice,” one villager said.
“I am even suggesting that these people be moved and do their activities elsewhere. Our lives depend on these gardens and now my vegetables are wilting as I use this poisoned water,” added the villager.
“We are not against people looking for money but it has to be done properly. I don’t know how best we can address this as our source of livelihood is at stake here,” another villager said.
Midlands Provincial Environmental Management Agency Quality Officer, Alphinos Rugara says the chemicals used by illegal miners have far reaching effects to the environment and human beings.
“What the illegal miners normally use is mercury. Mercury falls under heavy metals and can slowly poison the environment. We have microorganisms that might consume the polluted water.
“These might be consumed by fish and other animals which will be eaten by human beings. They can eventually poison unborn babies. If humans use such polluted water to irrigate their crops and when people eventually eat such crops, they end up consuming the dangerous chemicals and such activities should thus be stopped,” Rugara said.
When released into the environment, mercury accumulates in water laid sediments where it converts into toxic methylmercury and enters the food chain. Mercury contamination is a significant public health and environmental problem because methylmercury easily enters the bloodstream and affects the brain.