Timber suppliers create environmental disaster
SUPPLIERS felling timber in Zimbabwe’s prime resort areas and using the open tank treatment method, are leaving an ugly trail of littering and toxic creosote residue in Nyanga, Chimanimani and Vumba areas.
“Creosote produces very toxic fumes. It is a hazardous chemical which should not be handled like margarine. Handlers should have proper protective clothing. It is a requirement to have a concrete structure so that if there is spillage, it is contained. If it spills on the ground, the soil turns black and it compacts,” said a senior forester who preferred to remain anonymous.
In the Vumba area, at one roadside treatment site on the way to Leopard Rock, the place is littered with creosote spillage and creosote heavily soiled clothes. There were also a few logs on site and as one approaches the vicinity of this site, the atmosphere is filled with the strong and pungent smell of creosote.
Mr Phillip Tom, provincial forestry manager for Manicaland regretted the littering saying, “given that these are our prime resort areas, littering will reduce the aesthetic value of our tourist resort areas. We are now affecting the natural beauty of these areas.”
He also advised people extracting timber in these resort areas to take precautions so that they rehabilitate the areas to restore their original state. Mr Tom said there is need to engage the timber suppliers, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) and Forestry Commission in order to educate them on the impact of irresponsible timber extraction on prime forestry areas in resort areas.
“Should this continue, there are going to be serious consequences. The sanitation of the area is what is of grave concern,” Mr Tom said. He also urged people allocated plots in the resort areas to practice responsible forestry practices. He added: “Those areas are conserved and the farmers must farm ecologically. We are now affecting the natural beauty of the resort areas.”
Timber Producers Federation Chief Executive Officer, Darlington Duwa said ? not all timber companies are members of his organisation and warned that the practice compromises quality. There is low penetration of the creosote into the wood. The standard penetration level is a minimum of 13mm into the wood, which cannot be achieved through the open tank method. With time the creosote is washed away exposing the poles to insects.
“The life of the poles is reduced. However, where the poles are to be used for a short period say just one year, it makes business sense to use the open tank treated poles. For applications such as transmission poles, telephone poles, dunnages and construction, it is advisable to use pressure treated poles carrying the Standard Association (SAZ) mark.
Mr Duwa also confirmed that the practice is rampant and buyers need to be conscientised that they are being ripped off. “They should buy poles that are pressure treated from reputable dealers/ manufactures carrying the SAZ mark.
“The price of pressure treated poles may seem high but it gives the end user value for money,” Mr Duwa advised.
EMA Manicaland provincial manager, Mr Kingstone Chitotombe said the organization was aware of the environment contamination and roadside timber treatment operation in Vumba resort area. He said the Agency is in the process of engaging the people responsible for the contamination to put in place mechanisms that will prevent creosote environment interface especially the aquatic environment.
With the high rainfall received in these areas, it is no doubt that the spillage that has saturated the soils surrounding the treatment sites finds its way into the natural streams and dams providing water for domestic and agricultural purposes.
Creosote can enter the body through inhalation and absorption through the skin.
Reckless handling of creosote can cause skin irritation, blistering, warts, and cancer. Its effect on the central nervous system results in depression, weakness, headache nausea, confusion and convulsions.
The road side treatment of timber in Vumba is creating a trail of environmental disaster.