By Thomas Chidamba
ENVIRONMENTAL expert Ernest Mando has called on the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) to descend heavily on sand poachers who are leaving a trail of destruction and exposing communities to health hazards in most urban centres.
Mando told NewsDay that it was high time Ema got tough with sand poachers as they were causing irreparable damage to the environment.
“Many poachers have, basically, gone unpunished over the years as some of them operate using unregistered vehicles which in most cases are not roadworthy and they drive them at night without headlights contributing to road accidents.”
“Sand miners leave open gullies causing children who live around to fall into those gullies and also these gullies are breeding grounds for mosquitoes causing malaria in some areas,” he said.
Ema spokesperson Amkela Sidange admitted that sand poachers were behind massive land degradation in the country.
“According to recent rapid surveys done by the agency, approximately 1 594ha of land is affected by sand poaching in the country.
“Harare is contributing 850ha to the statistics. 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, and these sites should be registered with Ema to allow for monitoring,” she said.
“Sand remains a valuable resource which local authorities should protect.
The agency is in constant engagement with local authorities to integrate sand mining into their master plans and be considered as part of development, 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. Local authorities must also develop local environmental action plans as provided in section 95 of the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27) and infuse sustainable sand abstraction.
“Sand extraction also requires a licence from Ema. Anyone found extracting sand in an undesignated site without a licence will be prosecuted. So far this year, Ema has prosecuted over 171 sand poachers and over 251
illegal sand transporters countrywide, with 150 illegal sand poachers prosecuted in Harare only,” she said.
Sidange added: “Local authorities must do community capacity building on community-based natural resource management consider registering of community sand abstraction sites and monitor controlled sand abstraction. Law enforcement agents must conduct a blitz on sand poachers, and education and awareness to communities and sand miners must be done.”