Category : World | Sub Category : Zambia Posted on 2021-04-21 21:31:49
Chingola Pollution Victims compensated
By Valentine Mukuka
Several victims of the pollution case of 2015 caused by Konkola Copper Mines in Chingola have started receiving compensation packages from mine owners Vedanta Mineral Resources with an emphasis that no amount of money will equal the damage caused by the toxic waste.
The claimants, who are mostly peasant farmers, have been queuing up at a named bank in Chingola to receive the compensation package ranging between K50, 000 and K40, 000 after the matter was settled out of court earlier in January this year.
Majority of recipients are not willing to speak on record or to be identified – fearing that they may be robbed.
The first recipients belong to the southern part of the area affected by the pollution. These include Shimulala, Hellen, Kakosa, and Hippo Pool and were represented by United Kingdom based law firm Leigh Day.
Those from the northern part that comprise of Fitobaula, Fikolongo and Kamuchanga are yet to be compensated because the law firm representing them Hausfeld is yet to conclude out of court settlement talks with Vedanta.
Sources close to KCM reveal that the settlement is well over $5 million.
The over 2000 claimants in 2015 alleged that sulphuric acid discharge from Konkola Copper Mines’ Nchanga operations had poisoned water sources and destroyed their farmland.
They initially took the matter to the Zambian High Court where judges awarded them K2000 as compensation.
That, however, was not their expectation and the farmers sought other means to seek justice and landed in the hands of UK activists working alongside dedicated Zambians that took the matter to the London High Court.
The farmers are pleased to be compensated at last but are not satisfied with the package. Nonetheless, they are delighted a court within the Commonwealth jurisprudence helped them secure a decent compensation.
“The little money which the people have reconceived is just something to show that KCM really did damage to the environment and the lives of people. The money is not sufficient compared to the damage done on the environment and to the people,” 63 year old retired miner James Nyasulu, one of the claimants has told Radio Icengelo News.
Over eighty claimants are said to have died since the case started in 2015.
“When deciding to settle this matter out of court we took into consideration the death rate among claimants. We realized that maybe by the time this matter will be concluded there will be very few people alive to benefit,” Nyasulu said.
The farmers have thanked local people who played a key role in taking the pollution case to the United Kingdom Supreme Court such as Lusaka based activist Chilekwa Mumba.
61 year old vegetable farmer Luckson Chabinga said Mr. Mumba deserves to be commended for his work in this pollution case.
“I am thanking people we worked with in this case. Mr. Chilekwa Mumba who lives in Lusaka used to frequent Chingola and left his family to help us. May God bless Mr Mumba,” Mr. Chabinga told Radio Icengelo News from his home in Kabundi East.
“God should bless the law firms from the United Kingdom. It was not easy for the lawyers to come from Europe to help us the peasant farmers here in Chingola for free,” he added.
Some farmers have left the affected area saying the soil is no longer fertile due to pollution.
“We are now seasonal farmers depending on rains. In the past we used to grow crops whole year round because of the stream which has been polluted,” said John Chinyimba aged 71.
“People with responsibility must help us to preserve water sources and the environment from pollution. This river (Kafue Rivers) is not for an individual but for everyone that is why it must be preserved,” Mr Chinyimba added.
It is not yet clear how much claimants from the northern side of the polluted area will be awarded as compensation. Most importantly, a united and conceited pursuit by the likes of Mr. Chilekwa Mumba has given Chingola residents a significant reward for the damage they have endured compared to what they would have initially been awarded by the local court.
The outcome of the case is also a strong statement to mining companies to take extreme precaution in the manner they conduct their activities. It’s hoped this is a giant step in protecting the Zambian people and environment in general.