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ZAMBIA: World Bank lends $65 million for sanitation around mining sites

The World Bank is committing $65 million to finance an environmental remediation and restoration project around several mining sites in Zambia.

Mining that benefits the Zambian economy has many impacts on the environment, including pollution that affects people’s health. Initiated by the Zambian government, the Zambia Mining and Environmental Remediation and Improvement Project (ZMERIP) aims to clean up the environment around mining sites. It now benefits from financial support of $65 million from the World Bank.

The funds granted to the Zambian government will be used to clean up contaminated soils in at least four municipalities. The authorities will also work to upgrade infrastructure to prevent run-off around schools in the city of Kabwe in Central Province. The ZMERIP project will also enable the rehabilitation and closure of a pilot tailings dam and excavation site in the Copperbelt Province.

The fight against lead pollution

An important component of the Environmental Remediation and Improvement and Mining Project in Zambia is dedicated to the control of lead pollution. The Zambian government wants to detect and treat children with high lead levels in Kabwe.

In this city of almost 189,000 people, “Lead exposure is mainly due to the ingestion of contaminated food, but also to inhalation and skin penetration. Affected people have high levels of lead in their blood,” says the World Bank. Lead is a silent killer that causes anaemia, headaches, convulsions, abdominal pain, neurological symptoms and developmental delays, especially in younger people.

Supporting local development

According to the World Bank, remediation activities and management of lead contamination hotspots should help protect about 70,000 people. At least 30,000 children will benefit from education and awareness campaigns. More than 3,000 young people affected by lead pollution in Kabwe are already being assisted through direct health interventions, including lead testing, treatment and nutritional supplements.

The ZMERIP project will also enable the creation of “environmentally friendly” income-generating activities for unemployed women and young people. It also includes a component dedicated to raising awareness of lead and other heavy metal pollution in mining areas. “Before implementing the activities, the project team made sure that these conditions were in place. Rehabilitation work in Kabwe and major infrastructure activities in Copperbelt province were delayed by almost 8 months due to Covid-19 restrictions,” says the World Bank.

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