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Parliament has said Green Fuel should compensate Chipinge villagers whose health has been affected by contaminated water allegedly being discharged by the Chisumbanje ethanol plant.

This was said in a report presented before the National Assembly on Wednesday by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment.

Chairman of the committee Justice Mayor Wadyajena (Gokwe Nembudziya MP) presented the report which outlined issues concerning pollution and health threats to villagers due to toxic waste discharged by waste from the ethanol plant.

“The committee recommends that human, animal or avian victims of ailments arising from contact with contaminated water be adequately compensated and that the company takes urgent measures to facilitate their treatment and rehabilitation,” reads the report.

“Evidence gathered from the community and Environmental Management Agency (EMA) revealed that Green Fuel has been discharging toxic effluent into Jerawachera stream, Musazvi river and eventually Save river, and livestock and aquatic deaths have been recorded due to contact with polluted water downstream.”

When the committee visited the Green Fuel plant in July last year, villagers who gave oral evidence alleged the pollutants that flowed into rivers and community gardens, affected their eyes and feet.

A man who had deep sores on his feet claimed they were caused by a sugarcane by-product called Vinasse which was used as fertiliser for sugarcane. But, Green Fuel spokesperson Nicole Mollet denied the allegations saying Vinasse was a harmless substance.

Mollet said to The Standard: “There is absolutely no effluent discharged into any public rivers or waterways in Chisumbanje. The effluent being referred to is called vinasse and is a by-product of the distillation process. This water does not have any hazardous chemicals in it and is actually an excellent form of fertiliser which can be used in animal feed. It is diluted with other irrigation water and used to irrigate the sugarcane in the estates. Nothing goes outside of the estate and a full water quality analysis is done on the diluted water before any irrigation takes place.”

The committee also recommended that penalties for non compliance of Environmental Impact Assessment be reviewed upwards. Green Fuel is also wrangling with EMA which accused the ethanol producer of not fully complying with the requirements of Environmental Impact Assessment process.

“Green Fuel must fully comply with the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment process by December 2015, and that the penalties for non compliance with provisions of the Environment Management Act must be immediately reviewed upwards.”

Parliament also recommended that the company should take immediate, deliberate measures to reduce fatalities due to accidents caused by project vehicles around the plant, fields and access roads.

“Green Fuel should respect the traditional leadership, as well as norms, values and customs of the local people, including the allocation of an adequate number of hectares to each traditional leader for the ‘Zunde Ramambo’,” the committee said.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard