FAVOUR Farms, a small scale cat fish farm, located on the banks of River Umabe in Ogene-Amejo Community of Edumoga District in Okpokwu local government area of Benue State has for the second time this month raised alarm over the increasing rate of mortality of fishes suspected to be the result of water pollution.
The proprietor of Favour Farms, Mr Victor Ameh, who raised the alarm Thursday morning,
attributed the ongoing mortality of his fishes to the persistent pollution of River Umabe orchestrated by the strip mining of coal by Dangote Mines Ltd., a subsidiary of Dangote Group of Companies at Efeche-Akpali, a small community in Ugbokolo Ward of Okpokwu LGA, Benue-South Senatorial District.
Mr Ameh lamented that “more and more mortalities are being recorded every day,” revealing that in the last three days, “we have lost another 170 fishes.”
According to Mr Ameh, the coal mining site is a short distance from the source of River Umabe in Effa Community, also under Ugbokolo Ward of Okpokwu LGA of Benue State. He alleged that the primary source of the pollution is through a small stream called Okollo into which runoffs from the mining site flow.
“Okollo flows into River Umabe and so it conveys the polluted waters from the mining site into Umabe in Effa, just a short distance from the mine site. Since March this year, Umabe water has been bad and it has been difficult for me to manage my fish pond because I depend completely on the river,” Mr Ameh told National Record Thursday morning.
Asked if he was sure that the mortality he is experiencing was not the result of infections other than the suspected pollution, Mr Ameh said he has been engaged in fish farming for over ten years at the bank of the river and was sure that the mortality is induced by the pollution of the river and not any natural disease.
He argued that fishery experts on whom he had relied on overtime have confirmed that it is nothing but the pollution arising from the coal mining upstream. “They told me that the incidences of mortality are due to the presence of some dangerous chemicals coupled with the muddy nature of the water, which led to little or no presence of dissolved oxygen, thereby causing suffocation,” Mr Ameh said.
“Between March and July this year, I lost over 300 fishes. Those that are not dead are not growing as they used to. I am told by my fishery experts that the chemicals being released into the river are responsible for the mortality and also cause excessive stress to the fish and therefore slow the growth of those that are not dead. They told me that even if the water doesn’t look polluted by dramatic change in colour as had been the case in the last 6 or so weeks, the pollution will still be there,” the farmer stated with utter pessimism.
Mr Ameh had in an email message to National Record two weeks ago stated that the pollution has so negatively impacted on his farm that he even contemplated committing suicide. He had also stated then that he stands the risk of losing over N4.5 million if there was no remedy to curtail the pollution of the water by the mining ongoing by Dangote Coal Mines Ltd.
Dangote Devices New Trick
Meanwhile reliable sources from within the communities have revealed that the managers of Dangote Mines Ltd at Efeche-Akpali have devised a new trick or strategy of dispensing the waters from the mining site in order to give the impression that the environmental pollution is either not emanating from its mining site or if it used to, has been stopped.
The trick, National Record was told, involves the intermittent release of the polluted mine water from a huge reservoir constructed at the mining site as against the usual daily runoffs which have been the practice in the first four months of the mining operation.
A member of the Edumoga Youth Movement (EYM), which has been in the forefront of the agitation for the provision of alternative sources of water to the affected communities, told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that the company devised the means of holding the mine water at a huge reservoir when cries from several communities downstream of River Umabe and Okpokwu grew calling for the stoppage of the mining activities until alternative sources of water were provided.
“These days, the rivers do not look as dirty and polluted as it used to be. Sometimes they will be dirty, deep orange, for one or two days in a week and if it rains, you will not know the difference, whether it’s the mining or the rains, that caused the pollution. But recently when it didn’t rain, we discovered that Dangote is still going on with the pollution. Just last week, I was at the mining site along with some people from the host community and one of the mine workers told us that the company has constructed a big reservoir where the store water and release when it is full.
“He told us that recently, the company brought some water experts from Lagos to conduct water tests on the rivers when they had held back the polluted water in the reservoir to prove that it is not the mining exploration that is contaminating the rivers as claimed by the communities and that shortly after the experts left, they dispensed the water into the channel through which the pollution has been carried out,” the source said.
A staff of Dangote Coal Mines Ltd. familiar with the mining operation, but who said he is not authorised to speak on the matter, confirmed to National Record the water test by the “experts” sourced by the company to conduct the test. When asked if the communities were represented or intimated of the test, he answered no.
The proprietor of the cat fish farm, Favour Farm, Mr Ameh, told our correspondent that you don’t need to be an expert to know that the water is contaminated if you go to the bank of River Umabe in any of the communities it passed through. He said from merely observing the “aquatic environment while standing at the river bank, you will immediately know that something is amiss.”