BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has expressed concern over illegal gold panning activities, which have caused massive siltation of its supply dams at a time the local authority is battling acute water shortages.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Councillors recently resolved to enlist the services of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to drive away the panners from the city dams’ catchment areas.
The panners are reportedly mainly concentrated at Ncema Dam that reportedly has alluvial gold deposits.
Upper Ncema Dam has since been decommissioned after its water levels dropped to unsustainable levels.
According to the latest council minutes, illegal gold panning activities were not only causing siltation and degradation, but posed a danger to the city’s water supplies owing to the use of dangerous chemicals by gold panners.
“While reports confirmed that routine patrols were being conducted in the area, indications were that these panning activities occurred mainly at night to avoid detection,” said a report from council’s environmental, management and engineering services committee.
“The concern was that these activities constituted a danger to the city’s water supplies, not only by way of siltation, but though possible use of dangerous chemicals by the panners. There was, therefore, need for the (council’s) joint operations committee (JOC) to ensure the stepping up of patrols in this and other dams particularly at night.”
The city’s supply dams are 41% full, and council is already planning to introduce a tight water shedding regime to conserve water.
“The director of engineering services reported that the amount of water in the dams was currently 41,5%.
The total volume was 172 078 964 cubic metres, of which the usable volume was 155 493 856 cubic metres.
“During the same period last year, the operational dams had contained 264 673 882 cubic metres of water, which was 22,33% more than the current storage. Upper Ncema was still decommissioned,” the report said.