The Balama district government, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, has claimed that the water needs of the graphite processing factory of the Australian company Syrah resources, will not pose any threat to the water consumption of local communities.
Balama’s main source of water is the Chipembe dam. Cited by the Maputo daily “Noticias”, the Balama district administrator, Eusebia Celestino, pointed out that the dam can store 25 million cubic metres of water, but the graphite factory’s requirements are only two million cubic metres a year.
The dam was built in the 1980s, but its retention capacity was reduced by damage to its floodgate. This is now being corrected by repairs to the dam.
“So we say there are no grounds for alarm. Rain water will be stored naturally as always happened”, stressed Celestino. “We will not have a problem with water losses because the floodgate is being rehabilitated. That’s why we are saying that two million cubic metres can be used for other purposes, in this case the factory. It’s a question of making use of the resource”.
Diverting water from the Chipembe dam to the graphite processing plant has come under criticism from some environmentalists and civil society organisations, who fear that the factory will drain the dam of water needed for irrigation.
They point out that irrigation is the primary purpose of the dam. It was built essentially to provide water for rice production. The chairperson of the Cabo Delgado Provincial Assembly, Jose Mugala, has expressed the same concern and has promised that the Assembly will follow the situation closely.
Celestino said that the Chipembe irrigation scheme has been rehabilitated, and a company named DD, using funds provided by Syrah Resources, is preparing an area of 80 hectares for rice and maize production. The total area that will eventually be irrigated by the dam is 200 hectares.
She added that this should prove to critics that the government is serious about reactivating the irrigation scheme. “Those who think that channelling water though a pipe to the factory will kill off the irrigation are mistaken”, declared Celestino. “We aren’t doing things without observing the technical aspects. It is also important to note that in all this work job opportunities are being opened for many people”. (Source: AIM)