Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Stiffer penalties will curb water pollution

Stiffer penalties will curb water pollution

People that pollute water should be fined to control pollution

People that pollute water should be fined to control pollution

Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story
INDUSTRIAL and service companies that poison Zimbabwe’s water sources are off the hook, at least until year-end, after the Cabinet Committee on water pollution recently agreed to their pleas for leniency on the grounds of economic difficulties.
Dozens of polluting corporates missed the June 30 deadline set on May 14 by the Dr Ignatius Chombo-led Committee to upgrade or install effective technologies that limit water degradation.

Despite the threat of closure, no company was actually closed. Water conservation is now of great importance, as climate change threatens to increase its scarcity.
In a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer, as is largely expected by 2080, water in the rivers, lakes and streams in countries such as Zimbabwe, the DRC, Mozambique and Sudan will decline by up to 50 percent, according to a 2012 World Bank report.

Sources told The Herald Business on Thursday that the accused institutional polluters had sought reprieve from the inter-ministerial Cabinet Committee on water pollution for an extension of the deadline. It was granted with warnings to move fast.

The firms, represented by industry body, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), said they were putting their houses in order, sources said, but needed more time, as the obtaining economic conditions restricted capital spending.

“They (corporate polluters) requested for an extension on the deadline arguing that they were still raising funds to import the equipment necessary to establish and or improve their waste management systems,” said the source.

Zimbabwean companies are struggling to stay afloat in an economy of sub-zero inflation, low consumer demand, high production costs and high illiquidity.
This is, however, not an excuse for pollution. The laws that govern waste treatment in municipalities, food, beverage and oil companies, funeral and tannery businesses are unambiguous. Companies are expected to comply, difficult economy or not.

Findings from a study released by the Committee in May blamed the above industries for discharging a variety of harmful industrial chemical waste and raw sewage that degrade under and above ground water or cause corrosion of water pipelines.

Extended pollution
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) spokesperson, Mr Steady Kangata said it was wrong to speak of an extension, as that would be tantamount to extending pollution at the people’s expense.

He said although the deadline had expired, the Agency was still mandated to carry out regular inspections to check for compliance on waste treatment and disposal.
“We are working closely with local authorities to ensure that companies, even the local authorities themselves, put in place pollution abatement measures,” he said by telephone on Thursday.

“It is more like an end of pipe solution. But the way is for companies to revamp their processes.
“Company (production) processes are not green so the result is an increase in carbon emissions and effluent.”

Corporate polluters have been asked to come up with quick fix strategies while they work on long-term broader waste treatment and disposal measures.
The Agency has been undertaking fortnight, even weekly random checks on compliance, but Mr Kangata could not provide data on those that had adhered to the law as yet.


On the threat or actual closure of companies for non compliance, Mr Kangata said: “Other people might call them closures, we do not. What we do as EMA is give conditions of what companies are supposed to do and what they are supposed to meet.

“The companies are expected to adhere to those conditions upon agreement. In case of failure to meet those conditions, we give orders in terms of section 7 and 8 of the Environmental Management Act.

“The sections force companies to focus on specific aspects for the protection of the environment and human health.
“Some companies might decide to downsize for sometime while they fix those specific areas according to the order.”

What Mr Kangata said was not anything above or below closure. A company will eventually shut itself down to comply with EMA’s order. No comment could be obtained immediately from the CZI.

The provision of clean drinking water is indispensable to human life and livelihoods.

Reprieve not unexpected
We can’t say we are completely surprised by the Cabinet Committee’s reprieve. The move was largely anticipated.

Without the back up of truly punitive penalty systems for environmental offenders, the Committee had few cards to play, except, of course, threaten closure.
But under current difficult economic conditions, closure was both unreasonably drastic and counter-productive.

There were other options to follow that would whip the culprits into line without causing job losses for an economy desperately seeking to create some.
And true to corporate predatory instinct, they played the economy card. The polluters won, for a while, and during that while, we must all suffer.

I ranted about this in my instalment of May 19. Penalties for environmental offences need to be made sufficiently punitive to deter continued recklessness towards water conservation.

The highest possible penalty – level 14 fine – against corporate environmental offenders is only US$5, 000, according to EMA. The lowest, level one, is US$5.

By comparison, the Cabinet Committee’s study said over US$13 million was needed to clean Mazai and Pekiwe rivers, tributaries feeding into Bulawayo’s main water source, which have been damaged by the city’s raw sewage disposals.

Three years ago, the Harare and Chitungwiza municipalities were fined about US$10,000 combined by EMA for similar offences. Giant beverage maker, Delta paid US$5,000 in penalties for water pollution. Until now, the situation has yet to improve. No one has been closed down.

The Committee needs to move from shut downs to compensation. If the polluting firm is closed, who is going to pay for the environmental damage they have already caused?

I quipped in the May 19 piece; “What will the closure of a tannery achieve for a grieving mother who lost a dear child during the 2008 cholera outbreak except the loss of jobs and income for those already employed at the mine? Can closure bring the child back to life?”

Elsewhere, big oil firm, BP has paid out billions of dollars in fines and compensation for an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that did not kill people but aquatic wildlife and caused loss of income for fishermen in 2011.

Here, the cyanide killers were last year jailed 15 years each for poisoning wildlife. Yet, million dollar profit-making companies that poison water consumed by humans get off with a laughable US$5 000 fine.

Environmental Courts
Perhaps Government should begin to consider EMA’s call for environmental courts. “We are handicapped because we do not set the fines,” lamented Mr Kangata in a previous interview.

“With the courts, we feel environmental issues (such as those on fines) would be given the highest priority. Cases will also be expedited.”
The polluters are now known. They are the ones to compensate, in addition to heavy fines paid out to Government, possibly into a national environmental fund, to be deployed towards important eco-work.

God is faithful

[email protected]


New Posts: