By GABRIEL MONTENEGRO and MARIANE ALMEIDA
Mining operations in the coal-rich province of Tete, Mozambique, have displaced around 5,000 people.
The majority of the affected families rely on subsistence farming to survive. Many feel that the mining industry’s efforts to protect these vulnerable communities do not go far enough.
In many cases, the level of compensation received by families was insufficient to cover the family’s loss of livelihood. Community organizations are also concerned with the lack of transparency associated with these resettlements; although community-level consultations were held, many affected families were unable to participate because the meetings took place far from their homes.
Simão Sebastião, who works for the Association for Support and Legal Assistance (AAAJC), said that “the community is the voice of the voiceless”, as tensions in the region rose in 2018. Frustrated and disenfranchised, around two hundred citizens descended into the Moatize II coal mine on 4 October 2018 to protest the noise and dust pollution caused by dynamite explosions.
Source International reported that the noise and vibrations from mining activities are a cause for concern due to the structural vulnerability of houses in the area. Further to this, another big issue affecting the communities’ well-being is the high concentration of dust caused by heavy vehicle traffic from mining activities.
The communities of Nhantchere and Bagamoio, adjacent to the mine, are directly affected by the environmental impacts of coal mining activities; the air pollution is severely affecting the health of these nearby communities.
Amidst this scenario, community-based environmental monitoring in the region is emerging as a tool to reduce conflicts and improve citizen well-being by empowering community members and making them aware of their rights.
Technicians from Source International help Moatize district community members to monitor air pollution caused by coal mining. PHOTO/SOURCE INTERNATIONAL
The AAAJC is one of the institutions currently promoting this participatory monitoring approach in Moatize and Marara regions. The association, based in Tete City, is helping communities receive fair financial compensation for resettlement and educating people on their rights.
Simão Sebastião said that the organization acts as a vital source of information for communities affected by mining activities. One of its responsibilities includes intermediation between government, multinational companies, civil society and the local media.
The association ensures action is taken to guarantee rights during resettlement, taking into account problems with noise, water and soil pollution.
Another institution that is empowering community members is Eco-Carvão Moz, which produces and distributes eco-friendly charcoal made with waste and coconut shells in Mozambique. Lina Ndove, Eco-Carvão Moz’s production manager, argues that companies such as theirs can provide solutions to the problems facing Tete communities by offering more sustainable alternatives to coal, while promoting economic development through job creation.
Legal experts through the Association for Support and Legal Assistance (AAAJC) meet with Marara district community members affected by coal mining as part of community empowerment in the Province of Tete, Mozambique. PHOTO/AAAJC/Simão Sebastião.
The National Agency for Environmental Quality Control (AQUA), in collaboration with Source International and the Environmental Governance Programme (EGP), are also working to promote community-based environmental monitoring and protect water quality in the region. According to Laura Grassi, from Source International, and Josimar Biosse, from AQUA, the biggest cause of conflict between mine companies and communities is water and land grabbing.
The joint project ran by these institutions trained local communities to perform environmental monitoring of mining activities and to conduct human rights impact assessments. This pilot project worked across six communities affected by mining operations in the Tete region, with the intention to replicate similar initiatives in other communities across Mozambique.
Environmental sustainability, economic development and human rights protection can be achieved by empowering communities negatively affected by mining. By giving people the tools to assess the environmental damage and human rights violations that arise from mining, communities are better informed and more prepared to address harmful practices.
Citizens have proven that they can be the engines of change when it comes to securing environmental, economic and human rights.
This story was prepared by Gabriel Lucchesi Montenegro and Mariane Almeida through The Young Environmental Journalist pilot initiative that aims at raising awareness and fostering youth engagement in environmental and human rights protection in the mining sector in four resource-rich countries: Colombia, Kenya, Mongolia and Mozambique. This initiative was organized by the joint Swedish Environmental Protection Agency – UNDP Environmental Governance Programme (EGP) in collaboration with the United Nations Volunteers’ online volunteering service.
Disclaimer: the views expressed in this story are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations, including UNDP or the UN Member States.
This story was first published by CLUB OF MOZAMBIQUE
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