Diamonds, they say, are a girl’s best friend. But for the women downstream Odzi and Save rivers in Manicaland province, in the east of Zimbabwe, the gems have become a constant source of pain.
Skin diseases have become the order of the day, affecting the ordinary poor and their livestock as companies mining in Chiadzwa continue to pollute water sources.
More than five thousand families benefit directly from the two rivers. For years these families have relied on the two major rivers, which empty into the Indian ocean in Mozambique, for their day to day living.
Prior to the mining activities in Chiadzwa, the areas feeding of these rivers were known for their agricultural prowess as they drew water to irrigate their crops and all.
But for many downstream, skin diseases have become the order of the day, affecting the ordinary poor and their livestock as companies mining in Chiadzwa pollute water sources.
Pius Matovhoti, a Gudyanga resident, is one worried villager. He said the presence of the diamond mining companies has caused distress to people in his neighborhood.
Matovhoti complains villagers have developed skin rashes from using water from the two rivers. Many are now shying away from bathing, swimming or using water from these sources to wash their clothes as toxins eat them away.
"The diamond mining companies are emptying the waste especially toxins into the Odzi river thereby contaminating it," said Matovhoti. "The major culprits are Anjin and Marange Resources diamond mining companies, we have lost livestock to this pollution."
Director Farai Maguwu of the Centre for Research and Development, a non governmental organization which has been calling for transparency in the mining and selling of Marange diamonds, says he has been receiving a lot of complaints from villagers about pollution in the areas.
the way companies mining in Chiadzwa, among them Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources, are polluting the two rivers.
Maguwu said the government and organizations such as the Environment Management Agency, EMA, must prioritize the situation in these communities to save lives.
"We had a delegation of visitors from the area who came here complaining about the polluted water, we were told children suffered from toxins emptied into the water," said Maguwu.
However, Kingstone Chitotombe of the Environmental Management Agency in Manicaland, denies companies in Marange are polluting water sources.
He says tests have proved the water to be clean. He, however, could not explain the sudden increase in skin diseases in the community.
But resident Peter Ndozandonyi insisted the livestock deaths have been caused directly by polluted water.
Manicaland provincial health director Dr. Edmore Chemhuru said his office is yet to conduct tests on water drawn from the two rivers.
But as authorities and activities continue to argue and procrastinate over this situation around the Chiadzwa diamond mines, many residents continue to worry about their health and future.