GWERU: The environment is under siege in Gweru’s western outskirts as river sand poachers have caused disturbances in residential areas with some residents complaining that the poachers leave a trail of destruction after doing their business
Sand extractors leave open gullies causing people who live around abstraction areas to lose their livestock which usually fall into the gullies. During the rainy season the gullies provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes, increasing the threat of malaria.
“We are now afraid for our animals. Imagine these pits that they leave behind. They don’t even care. It’s not only the animals we are worried about because there is also the issue of human beings as children can easily fall into such pit,” said a villager.
The community has initiated some programmes to reclaim the pits in the face of adversities from some unruly members of the society.
“This is my farm. I am trying to plant trees such as gum trees and all the other varieties so that I fill up these pits left by poachers. I had fenced the whole place so that I protect some domestic animals but alas, the thieves came and stole the wire. We are in big trouble from other guys who just bulldoze their way on our plot,” a communal farmer, Martha Mugaviri said.
The poachers have basically gone unpunished over the years as some of them operate during the night using unregistered vehicles which in most cases are not roadworthy. Many of them are driven at night without headlights, contributing to road accidents.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is aware of the problems affecting the area and warns of stern measures against those who break the law.
“We try our level best to deal with the poaching problems. We are saying people should seek the necessary clearance before embarking on extraction of river sand. We are working with other arms of government and those on the wrong side of the law will surely face the music,” assured EMA Midlands Provincial Spokesperson Oswald Ndlovu.
Some poachers have developed their own way of collecting this resource as they now collect it through what is known as sand panning which is not different from gold panning. This involves the mining of sand through digging trenches to reach the sand.
Some, however, cause soil erosion as they extract sand from riverbanks causing siltation. The mining of sand affects the environment with increase in land degradation.
Issues of land degradation through sand poaching are fast gaining traction as the world is battling to fight the effects of climate change amid calls for stiffer penalties for people who engage in such activities.