Peter Sinkamba, Citizens for a Better Environment
Peter Sinkamba is founder and executive director of the nonprofit Citizens for a Better Environment in Zambia. A mining engineer and environmental auditor, Sinkamba helped write the 1996 Zambian Republican Constitution and currently sits on several national environmental committees.
Monday, 1 Apr 2002
Woke up at 5:00 a.m — far too early, especially after all the fatigue of Easter activities. But I had no choice, because I had an obligation to meet some aggrieved farmers in Ndola, some 40 miles southeast of Kitwe.
The farmers, of the Munkulungwe farming region in Ndola, are upset because the Munkulungwe stream, their water source, has been heavily polluted by the Bwana Mkubwa mine, which is owned by the Canadian mining giant First Quantum. The stream has literally been turned into a tailings dam — all aquatic life-forms have perished, farm animals have been dying, and farmers cannot use the stream water for farming or for domestic use. Mind you, in Zambia, 84 percent of the population is poor and depends heavily on natural resources for survival.
When CBE learned of the development, we confronted the managers of the mine, who opted to settle out of court. An agreement was reached for the mine management to stop any further tailings discharge, provide fresh water supplies to the farmers until the stream returns to its original state, and compensate the farmers for the losses incurred while the stream was unusable.
The purpose of today’s meeting was to distribute a socio-economic impact survey to the farmers and explain briefly what was expected of them. The survey will help us establish the extent of the losses incurred by the farmers, so that we can determine fair compensation.
It took me until 9 a.m. to prepare for the meeting and I left for Ndola immediately afterwards, accompanied by the social scientist Jones Likokoto. Grace-Edwards Galabuz, who works at York University in Canada and helped prepare the survey, was unable to accompany us today due to other commitments.
We arrived in Munkulungwe at 10:30 to find the farmers eagerly waiting for us. We distributed the questionnaire, explained its objective, and surveyed the crop fields, which took us until 5:00 in the afternoon. I promised to meet with the farmers again on Wednesday, and drove back to Kitwe exhausted. Tomorrow, I’ll meet with the managers of the mine — one more step in ensuring that justice is done in Ndola.