Among the substances used by the miners is mercury, which can have lethal effects when it enters the food chain.
Manica district administrator Carlos Mutar told the paper that downstream of the mining areas fish and other aquatic species cannot survive.
Rivers such as the Pungue, the Revue, the Messica, the Nfirire and the Nhancarara are vulnerable. The pollution is killing not only the species in the water but also vegetation on the river banks.
The disappearance of fish from the rivers has a serious impact on the local population for whom fish is part of their diet, said Mutar.
Some of the rivers flow into the reservoir of the Chicamba dam. If the reservoir is poisoned, that will be a disaster not only for local fishermen, but for the residents of major urban areas, such as the provincial capital, Chimoio, Manica town, Gondola and Messica, which draw their supplies of drinking water from Chicamba.
Not all the artisanal mining is illegal. Indeed about 7,000 miners are registered, and attempts are now under way to train them in the use of techniques that will not devastate the environment, and will minimize the danger to the rivers.
Mutar warned that the pollution also affects aquaculture in the district. He believes that Manica possesses excellent conditions for fish farming, and indeed the district currently supplies fish not only to the local market, but also to neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.
But the water used for aquaculture is drawn from the rivers. If the rivers are poisoned, then Manica aquaculture could collapse.Post published in: Africa News