Tim­ber sup­pli­ers cre­ate en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter

The Manica Post - - Local News - Dor­cas Mhungu In­ves­tiga­tive Cor­re­spon­dent

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.

—Pic­ture: Ti­nai Nyadzayo.

The road side treat­ment of tim­ber in Vumba is cre­at­ing a trail of en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter.

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