Kabwe one of the World’s Worst Polluted Places, new report shows

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People scavenging for scrap metals from mine dumps in Kabwe. We all know that Kabwe mine and the nearby soils are highly polluted with the toxic metal lead. I am sure ZCCM-IH knows about these people but is not doing anything to protect their property as well as the environment. By LT blogger
People scavenging for scrap metals from mine dumps in Kabwe. We all know that Kabwe mine and the nearby soils are highly polluted with the toxic metal lead. I am sure ZCCM-IH knows about these people but is not doing anything to protect their property as well as the environment. By LT blogger

Kabwe has again made it on the list of the 2013 report of the world’s worst polluted places.

The report says the high level of lead contamination now affects more than 300,000 Kabwe residents, mostly children.

The Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland have published the 2013 report of the Top Ten Toxic Threats: Clean up, Progress and Ongoing Challenges.

The report presents a new list of the top ten polluted places and provides updates on sites previously published by Blacksmith and Green Cross.

A range of pollution sources and contaminants are cited, including hexavalent chromium from tanneries and heavy metals released from smelting operations.

The report estimates that sites like those listed in the top ten pose a health risk to more than 200 million people in low- and medium-income countries.

“In this year’s report, we cite some of the most polluted places we’ve encountered. But it is important to point out that the problem is really much larger than these ten sites,” says Richard Fuller, president of Blacksmith Institute. “We estimate that the health of more than 200 million people is at risk from pollution in the developing world.”

A 2006 health study discovered that, on average, children’s blood lead levels in Kabwe exceeded the recommended levels by five to ten times.

This was the result of contamination from lead mining in the area.

In 1902, rich deposits of lead were discovered, leading mining and smelting operations to run almost continuously for over 90 years without the government adequately addressing the potential dangers of lead.

Smelting was largely unregulated throughout the 20th century in Kabwe, and these smelters released heavy metals in the form of dust particles, which settled on the ground in the surrounding areas.

While the mine is currently closed, artisanal activity at tailings piles continues.  

The current CDC recommended level of lead in children’s blood is 5 ug/dL and levels in excess of 120 ug/dL can potentially be fatal.

In some neighborhoods in Kabwe, blood concentrations of 200 ug/dL or more were recorded in children, and records show average blood levels of children tested ranged between 50 and 100 ug/dL.

Children who play in the soil and young artisanal miners in the area are most at risk.

The Zambian government has made significant progress in dealing with the issue, particularly through a World Bank and Nordic Development Fund USD 26 million remediation program from 2003 to 2011.

Despite these efforts, the site still poses an acute health risk.

The World’s Worst Polluted Places in 2013 (unranked)

Agbogbloshie, Ghana
Chernobyl*, Ukraine
Citarum River, Indonesia
Dzershinsk*, Russia
Hazaribagh, Bangladesh
Kabwe*, Zambia
Kalimantan, Indonesia
Matanza Riachuelo, Argentina
Niger River Delta, Nigeria
Norilsk*, Russia

34 COMMENTS

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      I also have doubts concerning the accuracy of this data. China and India are not even on the list? Let me do my own research before commenting.

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      Recycled news…….Give us current state of affairs in terms of mitigation measures in terms of improving water and the genral health of Kabwe residents.

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    I spent some time in Kabwe at then Kabwe Mine between 1991 and 1993 on secondment from CAU and saw what this lead poisoning does to people. They emaciate to the level similar with people infected with HIV/AIDS. Those dumps should have been heavily secured as we recommended prior to the privatisation of ZCCM. This is another chernobyl waiting to happen because this lead affects even the surrounding townships and farms. By the way, where is the Ministry of Environment?

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      The International Community has been aware of this since the 60’s. The Broken Hill fiasco is not only our problem, but that of the entire world. The clean up bill is so astronomical that in countries like the US and Russia, cities like Kabwe have simply been abandoned. Lead poisoning is one of the leading causes of premature deaths and learning impairments among children born in Kabwe.

      This is one hell of a nightmare from which we might never work up. Yes, the majority of thinkers in Zambia and the rest of the world know. But what to do about this seemingly impossible situation. Only God knows.

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    “Chernobyl waiting to happen”? It has happened already. Investors (more like infestors” got their profits, retired and passed on their inheritance to their great grand children in Australia, SA, Uk but poor Zambian continue to suffer: who will speak for the voiceless when “Michael” lies and lies to them.. Bufi.

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      @Ulemona, and not that I support him but your hatred for Micheal Sata is amazing. This problem has been their even before investors took over. Lets be more realistic instead of always playing the blame game. This was not caused by Micheal Sata. This problem started as far back as 1960.

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    It has been one of the most polluted places on earth for decades.
    The clean up estimates are into the billions of dollars. The people of Broken Hill have been being born with more than ten times the acceptable lead limits.
    Yes, it is Sata and his PF’s doing.

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    And yet cnp indices by elections ,no heart for the children.what a brain waste in pf govt .do the govt serious know that lead is fatal,starting with mental effects in kids.

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    And yet Sata is making things worse by polluting our urban centers with filthy street vendors just for political gain.

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    CEEC Where is the disbursement list for successful 1083 applicants, is it also the ‘donchi kubeba’!! Kwaliba project approval taking almost 1 year, ni Risk assesment yashani? Banks take a few weeks to approve a loan. Guys be serious

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    Lead has been part of our lives for a long time… There’s no need to start panicking! Batteries, fuel (petroleum), certain edible insects. Relax Zambians!

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    NOW WE CAN DEBATE MINING AND THE INVESTORS WITH A CLEAR MIND.

    START THE BALL ROLLING AND TELL ME HOW WE SHOULD TREAT MINING

    INVESTMENT.

    I AWAIT LEARNED AND WELL THOUGHT CONTRIBUTIONS.

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    well look towards clearing of zinc and lead tailings at kabwe in a responsible manner. berkeley mineral resources are about to embark on this, subject to gov approval. locals should already be aware of this.

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    I’m convinced the framers of this report have not been to Lubumbashi in the DRC. Had they been, Kabwe wouldn’t be on this list. I therefore discredit the report!

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      @ St Jude,
      It deserves to be on the list and has been for years, it’s very sad that most Zambians have no idea that they are sitting on a Volcano waiting to erupt. I hope the current Government will not ignore it like the previous ones they all know about it, i cant understand why everyone has chosen to give it a blind eye.

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    Just abandon the entire city. Time to build a New Kabwe and resettle all residents. It would be far more cheaper than these ineffective clean-ups, and much much healthier

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    The result of mining activities in the city of Kabwe and nothing to show for it! Yes it is time to build a new city instead of starting the cleanup exercise that will just gobble billions of money. It is really sad that even when there are no serious mining activities and any industrial activity, it is still so polluted and sadly among the worst polluted in the world!

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    The mining operations in Kabwe started from 1906 up to 1994, the pollution were they though not as high as indicated in the report. The side effect also is not visible people but serious negative effects on vegetation.
    We have to live with it because the then ZCCM and governments were told by mine inspectors but chose to continue mining.

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    Aba Tonga can never rule Zambia at any cost. Whether you insult the head of state, me or any other Zambian, HH WILL NEVER BE PRESIDENT. HH would only rule if cows and cowdung, plus mabisi would be allowed to vote. HH request ECZ to change the voting rules. Kekekekekeke, ba Tonga Bull is Back don’t you agree? ahahahahaha wina azalila nafuti in 2016!!!!

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      Come 2016, Sata nafuti. In 2008 during LP.Mwanawasa the infrastructure in Livingstone were in a deplorable state. Go to Livingstone today you will appreciate the tourist capital city.

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      @Pio, I was actually rubbing it in that that HEMCS ni nafuti nafuti. I was just telling this Tong Bull is Back that his HH will NEVER be president ever in Zambia.

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      Hey DIVA, drop that tribal nonsense. If you think HH will never rule, base your opinion on his policies not tribe. Dont bring ZWD language on this blog.

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      What tribe was Mwanawasa? …And why associate who is president to tribe? Do you ever wonder why the worst presidents in Zambia come from one tribe? If Sata (Bisa) and Chiluba(Aushi/Lunda) are Bemba then Mwanawasa was Tonga.

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    Just to see that mountain of soil/ash in the picture and to imagine that rain pounds on it and seeps through to the drinking water in Kabwe is just a sad reading. I attended ZNS at Kabwe Skills Camp and we used to walk from camp to Kabwe town. Passing near that mine the fumes would almost choke you to death and to imagine there were even houses permanently located there was beyond comprehension. Just wonder what the lifespan of people who have had to inhale this type of polluted air is in Kabwe and no one cares. Saw some mine getting started on Kafue road at one time and all the dust was settling on the green leaves and nobody cared. After the ore is finished these mining conglomerates will leave us big holes which we shall not even be able to fill. What a shame this capitalism!

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