Zimbabwe: Sand poaching out of control
The house building boom across Harare, Zimbabwe has caused land degradation as the scramble for building sand has fuelled rampant sand poaching. Truck loads of sand are transported daily from illegal extraction locations dotted across the city to construction sites; but as the sand poachers smile all the way to the bank they leave behind yawning craters on the earth’s surface.
He said the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) cannot deal with problem on its own; “The EMA has no capacity to sustain its intervention efforts, while it has attempted to deal with local authorities by penalizing them for the land degradation and polluting water resources and the environment and raiding the poachers, the impact has been minimal given the fact that EMA lacks resources to sustain anti-poaching activities. There is need for a holistic approach from all players from government to civil organizations to find ways of combating the menace posed by sand poaching.”
Whilst the Harare Residents Trust, The EMA and other likeminded organizations look for ways to deal with the rampant sand poaching in Harare the poachers continue with their activities.
Comas Nyoni, a poacher based at Malvern Mahachi Heights near Irvine’s says sand- poaching is the only source of income for the more than seventy youth involved in the practices; “There is high unemployment and sand poaching is helping us sustain our livelihoods, I think it’s better for us to fend for ourselves rather than to end up as robbers,” he said.
However residents in the suburbs where poachers operates are unhappy and are desperate for government intervention,
“Deep ponds have developed near our homes as the open pits have collected rain-water and now our children are at risk of drowning. The government should intervene because the open pits also pose a health threat as they provide mosquitoes with breeding places,”; said an exasperated Tambudzai Mugowe of Epworth.
Builders in the areas feel that as long as there are price discrepancies between the sand provided by the poachers and that from the formal market poaching will be difficult to eradicate.
Joshua Nyamande, a builder said, “Sand poaching is providing cheap sand for most people and as long as the prices on formal markets are high I don’t see the practice ending.” Sand poachers sell their sand at prices ranging from $40-$50 per five cubic metres whilst the same amount of sand can be bought from $100-$120 on the formal market.
The (EMA) says it cannot eradicate sand poaching on its own. The organization’s Communications and Publicity officer Steady Kangata said everyone had a responsibility to ensure that sand poaching is eradicated “The police, city council and the communities where these crimes are committed must play a role, we do carry out patrols in the areas but there is need for stricter measures to deal with the problem.”
He also urged local authorities to draw up environmental management plans (EMPs) that outline ways to reclaim the areas after sand extraction. He noted that they have also encouraged the poachers to get permits to extract sand from the council and EMA as a way to curb the practice.
However some residents feel the fines levied on those found poaching are not deterrent enough as the poachers can easily raise the money. “Twenty dollars is not enough for a crime of this nature, the environment is being destroyed, stiffer penalties should be put in place to discourage the poachers”, said Aulixa Magada a resident of Mabvuku.
Abel Shonhiwa a poacher in Mabvuku agreed with the sentiments of some residents that the fine was too low, “If we get caught by the EMA and the police during their patrols we pay them the twenty dollars fine and go back to work. There is a ready market out there and most of the time we fail to satisfy the demand and the money we make on a daily basis is worth the risk.” He said on a good day he pockets as much as $80.
A city of Harare employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said the city councils’ hands are tied, “We are doing all we can, but we do not have the capacity to deal with the problem, it’s a national crisis, the youth needs jobs more than 80% of the youths are unemployed and as long as our industries cannot employ them we will continue to count the loses.”
Until a lasting solution is found sand poaching will continue to cause land degradation around Harare.
source from: africanews