Villagers in Mkanganwi and Mazungunye areas have petitioned Bikita RDC over the expansion of Mushanduri business centre which has encroached into a wetland from which a stream which feeds into a bigger river develops.
The wetland feeds Mukumbo stream which in turn feeds into Mujiche River, a major water source for surrounding villages and their livestock.
Over 100 Blair toilets have been built at the watershed thereby contaminating the wetland’s underground water which in turn finds its way into the stream and ultimately the river.
Villagers who attended a recent stakeholders meeting held by Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) at Makuvaza business centre were vocal about the matter, saying they feared potential waterborne disease outbreak that could affect over a dozen villages.
Knight Murakata, who is Murakata village head, told the gathering that Bikita RDC failed to act on their petition over the past two years despite the seriousness of the matter.
“We are really concerned about our health because stands are now being pegged in a wetland from which the stream develops. The water has turned greenish and we are sure we are drinking human faeces every day. We wrote a petition to council in 2020 and nothing has been done so far,” Murakata said.
Health officials who attended the meeting confirmed that indeed there was a spike in diarrhoea cases in the villages.
Morgen Madhura, who is Bikita Rural District Council social services officer said there was need to raise awareness among villagers on the dangers of drinking water from the river.
“We really need to raise awareness on people to stop drinking water from that river. There are some people with a habit of drinking water from the river even though they have boreholes available,” said Madhura.
Responding to the question Bikita Environmental Management Agency (Ema) officer Norman Mhlanga said his organisation will assess the environmental impact of current developments at the business centre.
“We understand the seriousness of the matter. We are going to make an environmental assessment. The pegging of stands is the responsibility of council and sometimes policy fails us as we don’t have the powers,” said Mhlanga.
Bikita South MP Josiah Sithole, who attended the meeting, said the matter must be attended to urgently as it was a national issue which involved human life.
“Writing a petition is not enough as it takes long to get a response. This is a critical issue which must be attended to urgently,” said Sithole.
ZHOCD programs officer Bright Maduyu applauded the European Union (EU) which is funding the program that brought about the meeting as it is making a high impact in bringing to light matters affecting society.