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Chemical poisons hundreds of fish

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BIG BEND – A chemical that spilled into a water source has killed hundreds of fish in the past week.

The dead fish were visibly seen floating along a canal from the sugar mill that passes through Nyetane to neighbouring areas such as Sivungu and Magwanyana.

Approximately 5 000 people, mostly those who are employed by Illovo Ubombo Sugar, live in these areas.

Further downstream, a sugarcane farming association called Mavalela Farmers Association uses the water to irrigate its fields.

However, it is yet to be established if the chemical has the same effects on human beings and on the environment.

During a site visit to the canal, this reporter was met by a strong smell that emanated from inside the canals.

It was impossible to tell if the smell was of the dead shiny silver creatures which were floating or it was the chemical in the water.

Some of the fish were trapped among the vegetation growing inside the canal, making it impossible to float through.

A large ‘consignment’ was found near a water pump that draws water into the Sivungu Dam a few metres away.

In turn, the water from Sivungu Dam is consumed by approximately 1 000 people from about 100 homesteads.

Some residents interviewed said each household has at most 15 people, but not less than 10.

At the water pump, two men were found pulling out the dead fish using a long rod that had a sieve at the far end.

After removing the fish from the canal, they deposited them on the bank.

Bheki Maziya said they had been instructed by their supervisors to remove the fish from the canal.

"We have been doing this for the past two days, since Tuesday.

"If you had come earlier, you would have been shocked at the number of dead fish," Maziya said.

He said they were warned not to take the fish home because the cause of their death was still unknown.

With temperatures reaching about 28 degrees Celsius, Maziya and his colleague, Sipho Mbhamali continued with their ‘fishing’.

SEA officers visit the area, waiting for report

BIG BEND – Officers from the Swaziland Enviro-nmental Authority (SEA) have visited the area to see what was actually hap-pening.

This was confirmed by the SEA’s Director of Assessment Mboni Dlamini.

"We are hoping the company will provide us with a report. If we do not get any, we will have to take action," Dlamini said.

He said he could not comment much because they will have to get the report first to determine if this was an environmental incident or not.

When the reporter visited Illovo Ubombo Sugar’s administration block, a receptionist said the matter might be handled by the Human Resource Department. However, one of the people in the department Lindiwe Mbatha when called on Friday requested that a questionnaire be sent to the company.

Later during the day, she called to say she was still trying to gather information from the relevant people, but was experiencing problems because most were still away on holiday and were expected back today. Mbatha later called to say that they might meet on Saturday, promis-ing to respond to the questionnaire today. Towards the end of business on Friday, another member of the Human Resource Department Marwick Dlamini called and pleaded that they be allowed time to compile a comprehensive report, promising to forward it today.

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