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Monday, June 27, 2022

Have Masvingo authorities turned their back on aquatic life?

Melinda Kusemachibi

The weekend May 21-22 2022 recorded the death of fish highlighting the ignored plight of aquatic life in the country’s natural water sources as a result of human action that one can arguably link to ‘negligence than human error’.
Residents from neighborhoods nearer Shagashe River were reportedly jostling to catch dead fish in the river after they allegedly succumbed to raw sewer disposed into their habitat by the local authority.
The death of fish followed almost two weeks of raw effluent flowing into the main water sources Mucheke and Shagashe rivers albeit via the decade-long incomplete Mucheke Trunk Sewer.
In their response on May 23, 2022 MCC acknowledged responsibility over raw sewage disposal though distancing themselves from assuming responsibility for causing the death of the fish.
“Council acknowledges the recent discharge of raw sewer into Mucheke and Shagashe rivers due to blocked sewer main lines in Mucheke A and Rujeko B as a result of vandalism.
“After the incidents, we collected and sent samples to a reputable laboratory in Harare for tests. We are therefore awaiting the results from the laboratory in order for us to ascertain whether the alleged death of fish was caused by raw sewer discharge or other chemicals that might have been deposited in the water bodies,” read part of the statement by MCC.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) responded on May 25 through a statement saying they had noted the issue of disposal of raw sewage into the main sources of water Mucheke and Shagashe Rivers which is causing loss of aquatic life.
“The Environmental Management Agency has noted with concern the direct discharge of raw, untreated sewage into the environment, especially into Mucheke and Shagashe rivers. The Agency carried out investigation inspections to establish the possible causes of loss of aquatic life in Shagashe River, which was observed on the weekend of 21-22 May 2022. Firstly it was noticed that there was raw sewage draining directly into Mucheke River close to the Craft Centre,” read part of the statement.
EMA also added that from the tests they had done, the disposal of raw sewage affected the acqua life as the level of oxygen was too low for acqua to survive.
“From the tests carried by the Agency on 10 specifications from different points along the river, it was duly noted that of importance, D.O (level of free oxygen present) was 5.2% which was too low to support aquatic life and affect water quality which is red class.
“Conductivity ranges from 927-1576 which reflects that the river contained high masses of dissolved salts and inorganic matter hence conductivity increases with salinity which was ranging from 0.46-0.72 (green class) and this was also supported by the fact that resistivity was very low ranging from 0.006-0.0011. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) amount was high ranging from 467-787 which reflected that there were more cations and anions whilst permissible value is 500ppm, for fresh water the value might be very low. The most likely possible causes of increase in TDS are industrial, agricultural and mining activities,” added the statement.
However, the authorities seem to have forgotten aquatic life as evident by the disposal of such dirty into the water sources.
Environmental commentator Everjoy Mukwaturi said council is the chief culprit over disposal of raw sewage which is costing aquatic life.
“City fathers are to blame for disposal of raw sewage into Mucheke and Shagashe rivers that feed into Lake Mutirikwi, Masvingo’s main water source. They are the chief culprit as it is costing aquatic life. Contamination of sewage flowing into a body of water causes a detrimental chain reaction. What begins as an overdose of chemical elements, can ultimately ruin the ecosystem in place and is harmful to the environment.
“The effects of disposing untreated sewage in aquatic systems are depletion of dissolved oxygen this is a result of the oxidation of organic matter. Furthermore, increased nutrient loading with nitrogen and phosphorus in the waterway causes proliferation of invasive aquatic plant species like the water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes,” said Mukwaturi.
Director of Fauna and Flora Zimbabwe (Faflo Zim) Fidelicy Nyamukondiwa said the disposal of raw sewer into main rivers violates the constitution.
“The discharge of raw sewage into Mucheke and Shagashe River leading to the death of fish and other aquatic animals is both a health hazard and a blunt violation of environmental rights set out in Section 73 of the constitution. What is most disturbing is the fact that the death of aquatic animals coincided with World Biodiversity Day which was commemorated on May 22, 2022,” said Nyamukondiwa.
Wildlife Conservation Action public engagement programmes manager Tapiwa Chimbadzwa called on the relevant authority to take action on the preservation of aquatic life.
“Water pollution poses a serious threat to aqua life, therefore let us seek to create an environment conducive for all as we shape a better future for all life on this earth. To the relevant authorities, there is now need to put in place measures that can help the aquatic species recover,” said Chimbadzwa.
Contacted for comment Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said he was busy and could not comment.
“Currently am busy, I cannot comment,” said Farawo.
MCC has on a number of occasions been blamed for disposal of raw sewage into Mucheke and Shagashe rivers that feed into Lake Mutirikwi, Masvingo’s main water source.
The issue was raised in the 2019 Auditor General Mildred Chiri’s report on local authorities where Masvingo was rapped for contaminating water bodies.

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