Households in 10 villages in Mahyoro Town Council in Kitagwenda district are accusing the Chinese firm, Tyang Tyang Company of polluting River Buhindagi.
The families accuse the company of discharging contaminated water into the river from their gold mines in Kitomi village.
The affected villages are Zambia, Karokarungi, Buhindagi, Omukarere, Kyendangara, Kanyabikyere, Bwetuuma, Kitomi, Kitonzi, and Kachindo. River Buhandigi which stretches from Buhweju district through Ibanda District and pours its waters into Lake George is a source of water for over 2000 residents.
They use the water for drinking, cooking, and other domestic chores. Residents accuse the Chinese company of using harmful chemicals like mercury to refine Gold and dump contaminated water in the river, which has since changed color and turned yellowish and oily.
Moses Mushabe, the Mahyoro Town council Councilor, who doubles as the deputy speaker for Kitagwenda, notes that he is concerned about the mining activities that have affected the river where people fetch water. He says that he even raised the matter in the district council to attract the attention of the authorities to force the Chinese company to pay royalties, which could be used by the district to create an alternative water source.
Ismail Mushemeza, the Kitagwenda district LC V Chairperson told URN that when they went to monitor what was taking place on the ground, they were told by the Chinese to talk to people in Kampala.
He further noted that when they tried to communicate to one of the offices he didn’t mention in Kampala, they were told that the Chinese came on their orders to look for gold and shouldn’t be bothered.
Anthony Kalyegira, the Kitagwenda district senior environment officer said that there are three gold mining companies in the district with Tyang Tyang group being the newest. Kalyegira revealed that they have never received a copy of the license that mandates the company to operate in the district.
Moses Turyamureba Bujara, the Kitagwenda district natural resources officer told URN that being new in office he didn’t have information about the company.
Vincent Barugahare, the assistant commissioner in the ministry of water and environment told URN in an interview that the district should take action and arrest the miners until they produce an environmental impact assessment report detailing how they can mine without polluting the environment.
Yusef Mugarura, the Tyang Tyang Company site manager told URN that the company has tried to provide some water for the community by repairing boreholes.
Meanwhile, governments must invest strategically in building safe drinking water systems by not only increasing funding, but also strengthening capacities to plan, coordinate, and regulate service provision, if the world is to achieve universal access to safe drinking water and mitigate the effects of climate change, say WHO, UNICEF, and the World Bank in a report released today.
The State of the World’s Drinking Water report notes that over 2 billion people have gained access to safe drinking water in the past two decades. This progress, while positive, is fragile and inequitable with one-quarter of the world’s population left behind.
Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods, which exacerbate water insecurity, disrupt supplies and devastate communities.
Meanwhile rapid urbanization is increasing the strain on cities’ capacity to deliver water to the millions of people living in in-formal communities and slums.
“Providing greater access to safe drinking water has saved many lives, most of them children. But climate change is eating into those achievements,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. “We have to accelerate our efforts to ensure every person has reliable access to safe drinking water something that is a human right, not a luxury.”
The report provides a comprehensive review of the links between water, health, and development, with actionable recommendations for governments and partners, illustrated by examples of how countries are contributing to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of reaching safely managed drinking water for all by 2030.
“Investing in water and sanitation is critical to health, economic growth and the environment. Healthier children become healthier adults who then contribute more to the economy and society”, said Saroj Kumar Jha, Director, Global Director, World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice. “This principle is at the core of the World Bank’s Human Capital Project. Governments and private sector must take critical action now to accelerate inclusive and sustainable water supply and sanitation services in both urban and rural areas.”
To provide universal access to safe drinking water by 2030, governments and partners must dramatically increase political commitment to drinking water and quadruple investments. The report provides comprehensive recommendations to enact sustainable improvements that addresses infrastructure, governance, finance, capacity development, data and information, and innovation, even with limited budgets.
Overarching recommendations include:
- Strengthen existing institutions by filling gaps, facilitating coordination, establishing a regulatory environment supported by legislation and standards for service quality, and ensuring enforcement.
- Increase funding from all sources dramatically, with water service providers improving efficiency and performance, and governments providing a stable and transparent administrative, regulatory and policy environment.
- Build capacity within the water sector by developing a capable and motivated workforce through a range of capacity-development approaches based on innovation and collaboration.
- Ensure relevant data and information are available to better understand inequalities in drinking water services and make evidence-based decisions.
- Encourage innovation and experimentation through supportive government policy and regulation, accompanied by rigorous monitoring and evaluation.
“No child should be faced with the choice of drinking dirty water – a leading killer of children – or making dangerous journeys to collect water and missing out on school,” said Aidan Cronin, UNICEF Interim Director of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) and Climate, Environment, Energy, and Disaster Risk Reduction (CEED).
“Accessible and reliable safe drinking water is fundamental to ensuring children are healthy, educated, and thriving.”