GOVERNMENT agencies have been urged to address coal seam fires that have left several people burnt in Hwange.
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) said government agencies like the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) had a duty to take measures, including policy interventions to protect children from mining hazards.
This was after an eight-year-old girl was burnt by coal fires and is currently battling for life at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo after she accidentally fell into a coal-ash disposal site belonging to the Hwange Colliery Company on Saturday.
Several other people in the coal-rich district have been left injured after stepping on coal seam fires.
In a report titled Effects of coal seam fires and other environmental hazards on children in Hwange, the CNRG said the fires continued to jeopardise children’s lives.
“Many of the victims of these fires are children whose future has been ruined by permanent injuries, lengthy periods spent in hospital and unending excruciating pain that has become a permanent experience in their lives, largely due to inadequate therapy they receive,” read the CNRG report.
“Despite clear evidence of the huge risk posed by coal-mining activities in Hwange, government, HCCL and Ema have not done anything so far to protect the children and the community.
“Ema is expected to execute its mandate of monitoring adherence of mining companies to environmental management regulations without fear or favour.”
The CNRG said concessions owned by the HCCL had become silent killers due to poor implementation of environmental laws.
“Residents have noted that mine residue dumps found in Number 2 and 3 areas of HCCL are some of the most hazardous sites with raging underground coal seam fires.”
Coal seam fires also affect the environment by releasing toxic fumes, reigniting grass, or forest fires and can cause subsidence of surface infrastructure such as roads, pipelines, electric lines, bridge supports, buildings and homes. (Newsday)