Sand mining destroys Shurugwi River

There are fears that sand mining on the banks of the Musavezi River could jeopardise its future by accelerating erosion.

River bank erosion on Musavezi River.
River bank erosion on Musavezi River.

During a recent visit to the bridge where a Zupco bus was involved in an accident in which four people lost their lives last month, this reporter saw sand mining activities taking place a few metres from the bridge itself.

The bus plunged into the river after the road gave way due to river bank erosion.

The sand is transported to a large warehouse in Shurugwi urban where a lot of other building materials are stored for use in a huge housing project for Unki Mine employees.

Environmental Management Agency spokesman, Steady Kangata, confirmed to The Zimbabwean that Unki Mine applied for a licence to extract sand from the river.

“Unki should adhere to strict conditions set by EMA. If there is erosion taking place it means that some aspects are not being done properly because there should not be any problems,” he said. “This means there are aspects of the mining we should check on.”

Where over-mining occurs experts say the health of the river and the environment in general is severely compromised. Excessive in stream sand mining is also said to be a threat to bridges and nearby structures.

Kangata said that proper river sand mining would be beneficial because it helped in reversing siltation of rivers and in infrastructural development.

Tongogara Rural District Council chairman, Shepherd Mudhara said the sand mining was being monitored, and “This venture was supposed to help the community. The pools created provided water for livestock and gardening.”

These other problems were unforeseen, he added. Sand mining also affects the adjoining groundwater system and the uses that local people make of the river.

Some people in the area expressed concern that the erosion has continued unabated.

“Even after the accidents that occurred at the bridge the mining has continued. We think it would be proper for an investigation to be carried out to find out how this is affecting the road and the bridge,” said a man at the nearby Chachacha business centre who did not want to be named.

Days before the Zupco accident two men had lost their lives after they abandoned their vehicle midway whilst trying to cross the bridge and realised they would not make it through. They were swept away as they attempted to make it across on foot. At least six other vehicles have fallen into the river since the bus accident.

On approaching the bridge, vehicles have to divert to a smaller and narrower bridge which was last used before the now fallen bridge became operational in 1993. The government has declared the new route and the smaller bridge illegal and substandard, but has not done anything to stop its use or start repairs on the main bridge.

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