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Thousands of residents in the villages of Chiúta district, Tete province, have abandoned fishing and farming after a sulphur contamination alert for the Mavuzi River was issued.
Fishing and agriculture are the main sources of livelihood in the area.
A cargo truck carrying plastic bags of sulphur overturned on the bridge over the Mavudzi River on Sunday, August 11, spilling large amounts of sulphur into the water. The truck had departed from the port of Beira en route to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Today [Wednesday, August 14] the truck cab has been removed from the water, preventing more fuel from draining into the river,” said Chiúta District Permanent Secretary Manuel Cebola, cited by Lusa News Agency.
Manuel Cebola told Voa Portugues that “after the accident, dead fish started to appear in the water, and the vegetables on the river banks began to shrivel up.”
“Contact with sulphur water is hazardous to human health,” a medical source said, warning people to stop consuming all products that might have come into contact with the contaminated water.
The Chiúta district government and a multisectoral health and environment team sent to monitor the incident intensified the campaign to ban the sale and consumption of potentially contaminated fish and vegetables.
The government and the company in charge of the sulphur consignment held a meeting in the city of Tete yesterday (August 14), but the agenda was not disclosed, nor was it announced whether the company would be held accountable for the environmental damage so far caused.
Hermenigildo Galimoto, head of the Environmental Management Department at Tete’s provincial Directorate of Land, Environment and Rural Development, who confirmed the meeting with the company, said that samples of river water had been sent for laboratory analysis.
“The results should be known this Thursday (15 August),” Galimoto said.
The Mazuvi River is a tributary of the Zambezi River, which supplies fish to the region, and it is feared that the contamination might even reach the Cahora Bassa Dam.
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