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Zambia Human Rights
The name Kabwe or Kabwe-Ka Mukuba means 'ore' or 'smelting' but the European/Australian prospectors named it Broken Hill after a similar mine in Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia. The mine was the largest in the country for around thirty years until it was overtaken in the early 1930s by larger copper mining complexes on the Copperbelt. Apart from lead and zinc it also produced silver, manganese and heavy metals such as cadmium, vanadium, and titanium.
Kabwe also has a claim to being the birthplace of Zambian politics as it was an important political centre during the colonial period. It is an important transportation and mining centre.
The mine, which occupies a 2.5 km² site 1 km south-west of the town centre, is closed but metals are still extracted from old tailings. A study by the Blacksmith Institute found Kabwe to be one of the ten most polluted places in the world due mostly to heavy metal (mostly zinc and lead) tailings making their way into the local water supply.
For almost a century, Kabwe, a city of 300,000 in Zambia, has been highly contaminated with lead from a government-owned lead mine and smelter, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM). Although the mine has been closed since 1994, residents continue to get sick and die from the contamination due to a lack of cleanup efforts on the part of the company and the government.
Lead is one of the most potent neurotoxins known to humans. When breathed in, lead directly attacks the central nervous system. It is particularly damaging to infants and children, and can cross the mother's placenta, putting unborn and nursing infants at risk. Yet, remarkably, the citizens of Kabwe have until recently been completely unaware that they are living in one of the most poisoned cities on earth. Blacksmith founded a local NGO, Kabwe Environmental and Rehabilitation Foundation (KERF), that has been bringing educational services to the community on how to limit exposure to lead, and nursing support for those who are ill.
Kabwe Lead Mines
Kabwe, the second largest city in Zambia with a population of 300,000, is located about 130km north of the nation's capital, Lusaka. It is one of six towns situated around the Copperbelt, once Zambia's thriving industrial base. In 1902, rich deposits of potentially dangerous lead were discovered in the mine and smelter located in the center of the town. Ore veins with lead concentrations as high as 20 percent have been mined deep into the earth and a smelting operation was set up to process the ore. Mining and smelting operations were running almost continuously up until 1994 without the government addressing the potential danger of lead. The mine and smelter, owned by the now privatized Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines, is no longer operating but has left a city with poison and toxicity from hazardous concentrations of lead in the soil and water.
During the operation there were no pollution laws regulating emissions from the mine and smelter plant. In turn, air, soil, and vegetation were all subjected to contamination, and ultimately, over some decades, millions of human lives were also affected. Some recent findings reveal the extent to which lead--one of the most potent neurotoxins known to man--has effected the health of Kabwe citizens. In the U.S., normal blood levels of lead are less than 10 ug/dL (micrograms per deciliter). Symptoms of acute poisoning occur at blood levels of 20 and above, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, and leading to muscle spasms and kidney damage. Levels of over ten are considered unhealthy and levels in excess of 120 can often lead to death. In Kabwe, blood concentrations of 300 ug/dL have been recorded in children and records show average blood levels of children range between 60 and 120 ug/dL.
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Zambia Human Rights Commission - http://www.hrc.org.zm/
The HRC is an autonomous National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), established under Article 125 of the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia. The HRC exists to ensure that the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms is a reality for all persons in Zambia. The establishment of the HRC followed recommendations to the Government by the Munyama Commission of Inquiry appointed in 1992 to investigate and establish violations of human rights during the second republic (1972 - 1991). The Commission of inquiry proposed the establishment of a Permanent Human Rights Commission that would promote and protect human rights...
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