… power plant a health hazard

GOVERNMENT deliberately bypassed environmental management and energy regulations during the setting up of the dodgy US$498 million diesel-powered Dema Emergency Power Plant, posing a health hazard to hundreds of local villagers staying near the project.

Elias Mambo/Bernard Mpofu

Information gathered by the Zimbabwe Independent shows that the Dema project, which is running under the purview of the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), circumvented laid down regulations administered by the country’s two statutory bodies — the Environmental Management Authority (EMA)’s impact assessment certification and the Zimbabwe Energy Regulation Authority (Zera.)

Contacted for comment, EMA spokesperson Steady Kangata said his agency was still waiting for the environmental impact assessment document from Sakunda.

“Power generation, regardless of source, is a prescribed activity. It has to undergo environmental impact assessment,” Kangata said.

“This is a comprehensive exercise which brings out the impact on the people, environment, economy and social aspects. However, we are still waiting for Sakunda to present its impact assessment document.”

The Dema project in Dema area in Mashonaland East, is situated about 300 metres away from Murape Secondary School which has over 600 students.

The project was set up close to a human settlement, posing danger to more than 1 000 families in Dema as well as people residing in Chitungwiza which is only 10 km away.

Investigations also showed that Sakunda runs 230 powerful diesel generators from 5:30 in the morning until 10pm in the evening, consuming close to 400 000 litres of diesel. The plant emits thick plumes of black smoke which envelop the atmosphere and the community. Trees near the plant are covered in black soot which is emitted by the generators.

Energy experts say according to the sustainable energy authority of Ireland one litre of diesel used results in 2,68kg of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere. In the case of Dema, which uses 400 000 litres every day, close to 1 072 tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere on a daily basis, posing serious health risks. Gasses which are emitted can have adverse effects on health, particularly among people with respiratory illnesses.