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Harare, Bulawayo top sand poaching stats - EMA

by Staff Reporter
07 Jun 2022 at 23:58hrs | Views
HARARE and Bulawayo have been identified as the country's leading provinces with rampant illegal sand poaching with authorities calling for stiffer penalties that are deterrent in order to ward off poachers.

This was revealed in a recent rapid survey conducted by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) whereby they say 1694 hectares of land is affected by sand poaching in Zimbabwe with Harare province accounting for about half of that figure.

According to the Agency, illegal sand poaching is rampant in the two provinces as the sand is used for infrastructural development mainly for the expansion of both residential and commercial construction sites.

Areas identified in Bulawayo are St Peters, Methodist Village and on the Gwayi River bed while in Harare it is Epworth and Eyecourt areas.

The Environmental Education and Publicity Manager Mrs Amukela Sidange said this illegal sand poaching remains a worrying driver of land degradation.

"Sand poaching remains one driver of land degradation in the country and the Agency is seized with the issue. According to a recent rapid survey done by the Agency, approximately over 1694ha of land is affected by sand poaching in the country with Harare contributing to over 850ha of the statistics," she said.

Three cases in Harare were referred to the High court with one case having since been finalized.

Ms Sidange said land degradation due to illegal sand abstraction takes away valuable land that can be used for other commercial uses and infrastructural development for local authorities. Also, the huge open pits from illegal sand abstraction puts the health and safety of the public at risk as fatalities due to drowning in these pits have been recorded across the country as well as the same pits becoming breeding points for disease causing vectors such as mosquitoes.

Local authorities are mandated by law to set aside designated sites for sand abstraction to allow for abstraction to be done in a regulated manner.

"These sites should be registered with EMA to allow for monitoring. Sand extraction also requires a license from EMA. Anyone found extracting sand in an undesignated site and/or without a license or both, will be prosecuted. The Agency is currently carrying out a blitz exercise on illegal sand abstraction in partnership with ZRP and local authorities across the country. A total of 47 offenders have since been issued tickets of up to level 14 for violating regulations on sand abstraction," she added.

The Agency said in the process of the blitz, 28 vehicles used in illegal sand abstraction have been impounded.

They said sand remains a valuable resource and is in abundance but local authorities as planning authorities should guard it judiciously by ensuring extraction is done in a responsible manner without harming the environment and this can be enforced through gazetted by-laws.

Local authorities have been urged to strengthen mitigatory measures to ensure sand poaching is stopped.

"The Agency is in engagement with local authorities to integrate sand mining into their master plans and be considered as part of development.  Also, they must designate sand abstraction sites as provided for in statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 to address demand and at the same time avoid indiscriminate and uncontrolled sand mining. They should also develop Local Environmental Action plans (LEAPS) as provided in Section 95 of Environmental Management Act (CAP 20:27) and infuse sustainable sand abstraction," said Mrs Sidange.

Furthermore, the Agency said community capacity building on community based natural resources management was going to be carried out and also look into registering of community sand abstraction sites and monitor for controlled sand abstraction.

They said multi stakeholder monitoring of sand abstraction including adhoc law enforcement blitz was also another strategy they were using to curb sand poaching together with educating and raising awareness to communities and sand miners.

Mrs Sidange said sand abstraction is regularized and enshrined in Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007, Local authority by laws Local authority master plans, community by laws, Traditional leaders Act and the Rural District Council Act.

Source - Sunday News