|Four-year-old girl in Tanzania plays in an amalgamation pond contaminated with mercury while adults process gold. |
© 2012 Zama Coursen-Neff/Human Rights Watch
31-01-2015 Written by BILHAM KIMATI THE, Daily News, Tanzania
Parliamentary Committee, Agriculture, Livestock and Water have directed Tanga regional authorities to hire permanent security guards to protect water sources.The legislators issued the directives in Tanga recently during a nation-wide water projects’ inspection tour that took the team to Zigi River source in Amani area, Muheza District and witnessed unbelievable destruction of the environment.
Illegal gold mining activities are going on at various water sources in the district, the practice that not only caused destruction to the environment, but also health risks as the miners used toxic mercury.
Dr Stanley Lyimo from Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) said exposure to even small amounts of toxic mercury leads to serious health problems. “Mercury affects the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers mercury as one of the chemicals of major public health concern. For example, eating fish and shellfish that contain the compound causes health complications,” Lyimo briefly explained.
Earlier, Tanga Regional Commissioner (RC), Magalula Saidi Magalula said Zigi River was one of the sources that supplied water to the city (Tanga) and any pollution was unacceptable as guaranteed safety of water would never be compromised.
“Surprisingly, some of those engaged in gold mining held permits purportedly issued by the ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources with unclear specification of activity areas. As a result some invade water sources.
This confusion must be addressed with deserving sincerity,” Magalula said while directing Tanga Regional Mineral Officer, Elias Kayandabila to coordinate implementation of the proposed control measures.
The members of the parliamentary committee were also informed about water revenue collection by Tanga Urban Water and Sanitation Authority (Tanga – UASA) that about 7bn/- was collected annually.
The parliamentary committee was divided up into four groups. They visited four designated zones namely north, east-south, the Lake Zone and southern highlands.
The northern group had three members, namely Selemani Kakoswe (Mp - Mpanda Rural also group leader), Subira Mgalu (MP Special Seats Coast region and DC of Muheza) and Jittu Soni (MP - Babati Rural) “Environmental protection and water safety is a matter of urgency.
Security guards must be hired to stop illegal activities around water sources. Apart from environmental threat, ingested mercury leads to serious health complications.
This must be stopped,” Subira insisted During public address at Sakale village in Mbomole Ward, Muheza district, Mr Kakoswe underscored the need for neighbouring villagers to benefit from water projects as they would in turn take seriously the responsibility to protect water sources.
Commenting on the need to assist the community to establish income generating activities, Jittu said under proper arrangement, authorities at district, regional and national levels could support in beekeeping, poultry, dairy farming and other family projects.
“But this must be under give-and-take arrangement such that people protect the environment for sustainability of water projects. All living creatures need water therefore sources must be safeguarded,” Jittu emphasized.
Sakale Village Chairman, Abdallah Mahafudh said some of the individuals behind water sources pollution using mercury came from different parts of the country.
“Poverty in this area (Amani in Muheza) started to hit hard following untimely closure of the tea factory in this village. Formerly, the factory owned by East Usambara Tea Company (EUTCO) employed many people but has remained docile for nearly a decade. This greatly affected people’s economy.
Surrounding villages like Mbomole, Misalai, Marimba, Mgambo, Shamba-ngeda, Shebo, Mlesa and Mikwinini lost jobs,” Mahafudh observed.
The visit by legislators was partly meant to assess development of water projects implemented by the government under Water Sector Development Programme as stipulated in the Tanzania Development Vision 2025 that aims to achieving high quality livelihood.
Read also this article 'Tanzania: Hazardous Life of Child Gold Miners', Human Rights Watch, 28th August 2013.