Environment, Headlines

ENVIRONMENT-ZAMBIA: Industrial Cleanup on the Cards

Lewis Mwanangombe

LUSAKA, Jan 10 1998 (IPS) - Generations of families living on Zambia’s Copperbelt, where mining is the main activity, have had to deal with breathing foul-smelling air and infertile soils.

Now, industries have decided to clean up their act, and with assistance from a Norwegian consulting firm and a Zambian environmental group, they plan to start the first Cleaner Production Programme in 1998.

The programme will target the copper and cobalt mines of Zambia, as well as the consumer industries in the urbanised centres which span from Livingstone in the south of the country to Chililabombwe on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the north.

The Norwegian consulting firm, Det Norske Veristas (DNV) and the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ) are behind the initiative to force industries — especially the mining companies — to work towards cleaner production.

During the first phase of the programme, managers and workrs will be trained in the concepts, methodology and techniques of cleaner production in targetted industries.

The programme, according to Perry Mujubeki, a professor of chemical engineering at the Copperbelt University in the central mining town of Kitwe, is long over due. In most Zambian industries “there are no treatment facilities and where they existed, they had long stopped functioning due to machinery breakdown and funds non-availability”, Mujubeki says.

“Consequently water, air and land pollution is increasing in the country. The Kafue River, which transcends the most industrialised and populated region of the country, receives much of the pollution,” he adds.

Liquid effluent ladened with heavy metals and sulphates have been allowed to drain into the Kafue. The river — a tributary of the Zambezi River which is shared by Zambia with Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique — is a source of dinking ater or millions in six urban settlements, including the capital city of Lusaka.

The emission of sulphur dioxide from the smelting process has polluted the skies over the Copperbelt. An estimated 200,000 metric tonnes of sulphur dioxide are discharged annually into the air.

According to health statistics, approximately 13 percent of the Copperbelt’s five million people now suffer from respiratory and related health problems.

Sulphur dioxide also has resulted in vast areas of the mining towns of Mufulira, Kitwe and Luanshya being rendered useless for vegetable and flower growing. In the rainy season, these areas are blanketed by ‘acid rain’, which turns the areas into semi-deserts as soils become more and more derelict due to acidic wet precipitation and the disposal of mining waste onto the land.

The environmental problems caused by dirty production on the Copperbelt can be traced back to the early 1970s when the Zambian government under the then State President, Kenneth Kaunda, nationalised the copper mining industry. The government assumed majority shares of 51 percent, Anglo-American, 27 percent, and the rest went to smaller shareholders.

DNV and ECZ began the Industrial Pollution Prevention Programme with little funds. They wanted to undertake a study of 30 industries, but ue to lack of funds ended up conducting an audit o only three companies.

The two organisations found that Zbian indusries suffered from problems of mismanagement, lack o operative skills nd environental awareness. It also was apparent that the industries needed to urgently adopt cleaner production procedures.

Last November, an awareness workshop on cleaner production for chief executives and decision makers within Zambian industries was held in the farming area of Chisamba, 50 kilometres north of Lusaka.

Speaking at this function, which was regrettably shunned by the Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Environment and Natural Resources Deputy Minister, Gibson Nkausu, noted that cleaner production had a direct bearing on the manufacturing sector, which accounts for 25 percent of Zambia’s the Gross Domestic Product and about 12 percent of the formal employment sector.

The Norwegian consulting firm, DNV, believes that by eliminating waste, Zambian companies can actually save money, decrease workers’ health risks, environmental hazards and improve their public image.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 70 percent of all wastes and emissions from industrial processes can be prevented at source by the use of technically sound and economically profitble procedures.

And DNV notes that through investments in technically proven and profitable equipment or process changes, some European companies managed to make savings ranging between 48,800 U.S. Dollars and 223,000 U.S. Dollars.

 
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ENVIRONMENT-ZAMBIA: Industrial Cleanup on the Cards

Lewis Mwanangombe

LUSAKA, Jan 7 1998 (IPS) - Generations of families living on Zambia’s Copperbelt, where mining is the main activity, have had to deal with breathing foul-smelling air and infertile soils.
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