Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coal mining threatening Hwange National Park

February. A fly over Hwange National Park has revealed that there are 3 coal mining developments in and around the park; 2 adjoining the park and one actually inside the park.

The associated building of roads and increased human activity is bound to lead to an increase in poaching as the area is opened up, access becomes easier and there are more people in the area to carry out the poaching and to buy the poached meat.

Of even greater concern is the total devastation of large tracts of land in what was previously a wilderness area. It may not be possible to restore the wildlife once the habitat has been destroyed.

According to the Zimbabwe Park and Wildlife Act, nobody may mine within a national park unless they have a written agreement from the Minister of Environment and Tourism, and to date it has not been established whether any of the 3 mines has such an agreement.

In addition to this, before any development takes place, an Environmental Impact Assessment is required. The Provincial Environmental Manager for Matabeleland North and Bulawayo Provinces was not aware of the mining activities taking place, nor was she able to find any record of Environmental Impact Assessments being done.

The Park hosts 105 mammal species, including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores. All Zimbabwe's specially protected animals are to be found in Hwange and it is the only protected area where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in reasonable numbers. The population of African wild dogs to be found in Hwange is thought to be of one of the largest surviving groups in Africa today.

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