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19 Aug 2020

Simiso Mlevu, Centre for Natural Resource Governance, (Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe: Local NGO urges govt. to stop coal related projects and focus on renewables


Whilst most nations are putting in place measures to phase out the use of fossil fuels and focus on renewables, Zimbabwe is taking the opposite direction by increasing coal mining and fossil energy production. The intention of the government was flagged by President ED Mnangagwa in the first week of August 2020, when he expressed the Government’s support for the companies extracting coal in Hwange. According to the President, Government support for the coal sector is in line with the vision of attaining a US$12 billion mining economy by 2023 as well as achievement of a middle-income economy by 2030. On top of the Hwange coal projects, Government has also given backing to Zimbabwe’s Rio Energy Ltd’s plans to construct a US$ 3 Billion thermal power plant in Sengwa, Gokwe District, with financial support from China Gezhouba Group Corporation. In October 2019, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando, noted that Zimbabwe traditionally produced about 3 million tons of coal per annum and the produce was expected to leap to 15million tons per annum by mid-2020.

…Zimbabwe’s constitution provides for environmental protection in Section 73. The country also has some policies and strategies that are aimed at dealing with the negative impacts of climate change and improve environmental protection. These include the National Climate Change Response Strategy; The Renewable Energy Policy and the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In her opening remarks in the Zimbabwe Third National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change document in 2016, the then Minister of Water, Environment and Climate Change, Opah Muchinguri, reiterated Zimbabwe’s commitment to deal with climate change by highlighting international conventions and commitments Zimbabwe subscribes to.

…In conclusion, the country’s addiction to coal is not healthy for the citizenry as it does not only go against Zimbabwe’s own policy and strategies but also globally agreed frameworks. Coal extraction and burning not only has serious environmental impacts on land, water and air , but has social impacts on the human population too, resulting in many succumbing to chronic diseases such as tuberculosis. Further, coal has been singled out as the major contributor to global warming through high carbon emissions. In Zimbabwe communities that host coal mining companies have nothing to show despite a gloomy environment that is coupled with extensive damage of flora and fauna. This creates an ecological debt that investors will not bear the burden but the communities. Therefore, Zimbabwe should maximize and take action on its renewable energy potential which is not only eco-friendly but also sustainable.