By Lucky Maisenya, Witbank This is our daily experience in Emalahleni, formerly known as Witbank. A direct translation of Emalahleni isplace of coal. Nkangala Region is probably the most heavily industrial area in the Highveld. It’s landscape features mainly underground and opencast coal mines. Also this area has the largest concentration of Coal Power Stations in the country. Emalahleni is situated in the Highveld Air Quality Priority Areas. So this article is my reflection of my community observations, where AMD (acid mine drainage) and waste water streams cause a negative impact to our health and the environment. This streams pass next to two communities before meeting and form one big stream that pass next to five different communities, this communities are situated in Kwa-Guqa.Few kilometres from the communities of Kwaguqa, there is an old abandoned mine which exposes chemicals and mineral salts to underground water. Acid Mine Drainage from the abandoned mine and current mine has managed to find its ways into our streams and dams next to our communities. This Acid Mine Drainage is problematic in the Highveld areas and as the communities we don’t know much about it, how is government going to address it and when. Adding to the AMD problem, this streams are also joined by two other streams, one from sewer pump station and the other from the waste water purification plant. In the front page from our local News paper Witbank News there was an article on Friday 4 November 2011, about a huge sewer for Spring Valley and the development plan, the article stated: “The city is currently running on a water shedding schedule and sewerage is being pumped into rivers and dams because pump stations cannot handle the capacity.”
This quote shows that at some pressure sometimes waste water is being released to rivers on purpose. It is not only leakages that causes this waste water streams but also poor management from our local municipality plays a role. Some sewage plants overflows and the waste water runs to different rivers and directly to Witbank dam. This is a serious problem because Emalahleni’s main water supply is Witbank Dam. If our main water supply is being contaminated it means it will cost more money to purify water for our local municipality. For many people water would be a scarce resource to find, while drinkable water should be free to us all, we will end up buying it. In future we will be left without stored water as underground water are becoming more acidic from acid mine drainage. Also the soil loses its nutrients and the vegetation is being destroyed by acid mine drainage.
We people from our community need to educate each other about this social and environmental challenges we experience daily, because we are the ones that suffer the most from this mining negative impacts at the end. What is important is to first change our humanity behavior when dealing with our daily social challenges. If we can be aware of the mining negative impact as majority, it will be possibly to bring solutions as solutions should come from us all in unity. As we are the ones who experience these mining negative impacts we need to start fighting for solutions, No one will save us if we are not prepared to save ourselves. Change begins with you.