Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Legislators yesterday rapped the Environmental Management Agency for failing to assert their authority by allowing Chisumbanje based ethanol producing firm, Green Fuel to operate without an Environmental Impact Assessment report, a situation that has seen it discharging effluent in nearby rivers and compromising soil quality.
A portfolio committee on Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment chaired by Gokwe Nembudziya Mr Justice Mayor Wadyajena castigated EMA for failing to reign in on Green fuel but yet it was quick to pounce on small firms and individuals who violated environmental laws.
This was after EMA Director General Mrs Mutsa Chasi had told the committee that Green Fuel had refused to comply with the law when it was told to cease operations until it secured an EIA.
Mrs Chasi said all efforts including issuing it with three tickets did not help to enforce compliance as it was discharging effluent that was harmful to soil, animals and human life.
Mr Wadyajena asked if there was political interference that was stopping them from exercising their powers to implement environmental laws.
“So EMA is a toothless bull-dog that targets small institutions leaving big companies violating the law. We see you impounding lorries carrying sand but these big companies you are turning a blind eye,” said Mr Wadyajena.
Gokwe North MP Ticharwa Madondo said allowing the company to continue operating while it was discharging effluent to nearby rivers was in violation of the local people’s right to clean water.
Other legislators took turns to castigate EMA saying it had not done enough to reign in on Green fuel and urged it to be tough including issuing tickets every-day until compliance was achieved.
Earlier on Mrs Chasi said Greenfuel had not secured an EIA and had directed the firm to take necessary measures to mitigate the discharge of effluent into rivers as that would contaminate water bodies and underground water.
She said Greenfuel started operations without EIA in breach of the law and when eventually asked to submit it they did so without depositing the necessary monitoring fees.
Concentrated effluent, she said, was flowing through unlined canals posing danger to underground water quality.
She said the effluent being deposited in rivers did not have enough oxygen and that would impact on the water bodies in the water.
The PH, she said was too acidic, something had long term effect on the ability of the soil to be productive.
“We are concerned that such effluent is going to affect underground water. In 2012 communities downstream communities raised water pollution concerns. We carried an inspection and discovered that Green-fuel was illegally discharging undiluted effluent into community rivers,” she said.
As a result cattle in those areas were refusing to drink the water and water-bodies in those rivers would die.
Mrs Chasi said they had to hire an independent expert from the University of Zimbabwe to make an evaluation which confirmed their observation after Green-fuel sought to discredit their analysis.
She said Green had doubted EMA’s capacity hence they hired an independent soil scientist who confirmed their observations and analysis.
“Green-fuel has either failed, refused or objected to comply with the law,” she said.
She said they had since reported the case to police and a criminal docket had since been opened against Greenfuel.
Mrs Chasi said this was the only avenue available after the board of EMA convened a hearing where it directed it to cease operations.
She said Greenfuel had argued that the bio-digestor and other infrastructural equipment being recommended by EMA was expensive. This, she said, had seen the firm preferring rather not to comply and face the risk of being fined which to them was cheaper than to buy the equipment.