The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is looking for money to buy the latest chemical monitoring technology following an influx of imported chemicals in the country and a rise in chemical spillages, especially on the country’s highways, which is posing health risks to communities and the environment.
Since 2013, more than 251 elephants have been killed due to cyanide poisoning.
EMA environmental quality manager Mr Clorence Matewe said the management of chemicals in Zimbabwe was presenting great challenges given that the quality and quantity of chemicals being imported in the country have been on the increase since 2010.
Mr Matewe was speaking at the launch of the African Chemical Observation Project in Kadoma.
“The cost of adopting recent advances in chemical monitoring technology is high and there is high need for serious resource mobilisation to capacitate the agency,” he said.
“Zimbabwe, being a transit corridor, implies that the volume of chemicals transiting through Zimbabwe requires an improved emergency response mechanism.”
The ChemObs project is aimed at reducing risks posed by chemicals and raising community awareness.
The project also focuses on reinforcing the linkages between environment and health sectors at local, national and regional level across nine African countries, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
A representative of the Africa Institute, an intergovernmental organisation managing the project which is based in Pretoria, South Africa, Mr Thabo Morapa said his organisation assists the nine countries on matters relating to environmentally sound management of hazardous and other waste.
“African Governments are expected to contribute to improved health and environment through strengthening national and regional institutions,” he said.
Ministry of Health and Child Care official Mr Victor Chamandi said the country has robust health systems structure, which are equipped with well-trained staff who understand exposure pathways in regard to chemicals.
“However, there is limited research on human exposure to a variety of chemicals in Zimbabwe. There is no data on population’s exposure to guide clinicians and scientists,” he said.
EMA ChemObs project officer Mr Union Mapxashike said the project aims at capacitating participating African countries to establish evidence-based policies and make decisions on chemicals and pollution issues that take into consideration disease burdens.
“Specifically, it will strengthen capacity for data collection throughout the life cycle of chemicals, establish an integrated health and environmental monitoring and surveillance system, improve understanding of the link between health and environmental issues and facilitate effective policy making,” he said.