The Mutorashanga Green Pool is fast becoming a preferred tourist attraction in Zimbabwe with local tourists driving from different places to the place to enjoy themselves.
Great Dyke News 24 established that the place is a disused mine that used to extract blue asbestos and people are swimming in the water which is very dangerous as this type of asbestos is carcinogenic or causes cancer.
While blue asbestos can be dangerous, it’s not harmful if left undisturbed. But if the material containing asbestos is disturbed, it can release fine dust that contains asbestos fibres. When the dust is breathed in, the asbestos fibres enter the lungs and can gradually damage them over time. But one would need long-term exposure to asbestos fibres, usually over many years before developing asbestosis.
Water in the Green Pool is algae-free because of intense mineral content and according to sources, it is unsuitable for agriculture. Water running in streams, mainly seasonal, off the Great Dyke is saline and not used for agriculture until it has passed through a granite range that runs adjacent to the dyke.
Few plants grow well on the mineralised soils of Mutorashanga, making it unsuitable for agriculture or grazing.
Buy Zimbabwe chairman Munyaradzi Hwengwere who was once a consultant for asbestos products producer Turnall said the white asbestos produced in Zimbabwe is safe adding that the blue asbestos is very dangerous.
“I was the producer of the asbestos story, sponsored by Turnall fibre cement, and the purpose of the story was to tell the world that Zimbabwe produces crysotile which is white asbestos.
“It was meant to galvanise the opinion particulary on South Africa who was intent on banning asbestos from Zimbabwe saying it causes cancer.
“We had to go to Switzerland to meet the top experts on asbestos and what came up clearly was that crysotile is safe as long as it is used safely.
“However, there were two types of asbestos which were banned by the World Health Organisation and its blue and brown and certainly Zimbabwe for all we know, does not trade in brown and blue asbestos because those ones are known to cause cancer.
“South African companies that used to mine blue and brown asbestos have paid billions of rands to compensate for victims of asbestos because they are like crystals or spikes, if you enhale them.
“So to defend Zimbabwe, it must be clear that Zimbabwe produces white asbestos,” he said.
Some Mutorashanga residents revealed that the pool is a death trap that has claimed a number of lives including young children through drowning.
“The pool is very dangerous, it has claimed a number of lives and a recent case is that of school children who drowned in the pool while swimming.
“My father used to work there, yes l can confirm that they used to mine asbestos but I’m not sure about the type since l was very young by then.
“He used to tell us that asbestos is very dangerous before he died of cancer in 2004. For us, we don’t even visit the place at all because of what we have been told.
“The place is not safe at all despite it being an old asbestos mine. A lot of people died in the pool and there are a lot of mysterious happenings there.
“The place is not protected and no one takes good care of it hence as residents we suggest that it must be secured,” said Tinashe Chikwiza a Mutorashanga resident.
According to sources, the place is currently the subject of an ownership wrangle between a local consortium of trustees and some businessmen who want to develop the area.
The ownership battle has stalled plans by the local consortium to erect a perimeter fence that is meant to provide security hence the place remains a risk to the community.
Speaking to Great Dyke News 24, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority spokesperson Godfrey Koti revealed that the place is not registered with the authority so far.
“I can tell you that there is no registered player that has claimed that particular area in Mutorashanga so far. It is a recreational and spectacular view that people enjoy while they are there,” said Koti.
On the issue of safety, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Environmental Education and Publicity Manager Amkela Sidange urged communities not to use water in disused mines for recreational purposes as the water is mostly contaminated hence putting the lives of people at risk.
“As EMA, we can confirm that the green pool is there in Mutorashanga, looking at it as an old mine, it comes with some inherited problems. What l can say with people using the water for recreational purposes, is that as EMA we are urging communities not to convert water in these disused mines into any form of use without putting into consideration their safety.
“Most of the water from these mines will be contaminated so it would be prudent for the community to get the water tested and looked at so that it can be ascertained that the water is safe,” she said.
The Ministry of Mines Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura said they are not aware of what exactly used to be mined at the place referring all questions to the Mashonaland West Provincial Mining Director Sibongubuhle Mpindiwa who also said that she is not aware of the existence of the pool.
There is a need for an investigation and clearly, authorities must ensure that whilst everything is being done to ascertain what kind of asbestos used to be mined at the pool, there is a need to fence the place off and make sure that it’s not used until safety considerations are addressed.