via Nocturnal polluters pose health risk – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 31, 2015
ROSE Chimukoko (24) from Manyame high-density suburb in Chitungwiza wakes up every day around 3am. With a black plastic bag in hand, she heads towards Manyame River where she dumps the plastic bag on the river bank.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
The plastic bag contains human excreta and baby diapers.
This practice is now prevalent in Manyame and St Mary’s where a number of people, especially women, in Chitungwiza and some parts of Harare, have resorted to the bucket system following the malfunctioning of the sewerage system.
“This is my routine exercise. There are no ablution facilities in this area because of the malfunctioning sewerage system. We do our business in the bucket or plastic bag before I go and dispose it on the outskirts of the suburb,” said Chimukoko.
The growing number of nocturnal polluters in Harare, Chitungwiza and Marondera has become a permanent threat to the environment leaving residents prone to diseases like cholera and diarrhoea, among others.
In Harare, along Willowvale Road, fence dealers burn tyres during the night to extract wires. A thick black cloud of smoke is witnessed during the night as some youths in Harare’s high-density suburb of Highfield have resorted to unorthodox means of getting income, as they are now burning old tyres to release wires which they use to make fences, in a move that has courted the ire of environmentalists.
Being aware of the dangers of environmental pollution, they have resorted to hiding behind the cover of darkness to burn tyres away from the questioning public gaze.
Despite intensified efforts by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to monitor emissions and pollution of the environment, this new crop of indigenous dealers has devised means of escaping the law, working under the cover of darkness.
“We find raw materials by night and work by day. It is indeed a crime to burn things, that is why we do most of our work at night,” said Tawanda, who plies his trade along Willowale Road.
The wires obtained from burnt tyres are then used to make fences sold to pig and chicken farmers. Residents from Highfield confirmed that air pollution is the order of the day.
Rodgers Chapukira, a security guard who works for a company in the Willowvale industrial area, said the smoke produced a pungent smell and there was need to curb the practice.
“The smoke is very thick and disturbing. This whole place smells horribly. If there is anything to be done to stop these illicit operations, we would be grateful,” he said.
EMA spokesperson Steady Kangata recently said that his organisation warned the Harare City Council on the illegal burning of refuse and urged the local authority to deal with the issue.
“We have been calling the urban local authorities to deal with the issue of polluting air through burning refuse and we are still urging them to get rid of the refuse in commendable ways.
“Ash released from the burning garbage irritates the eyes and throat while smoke can damage the lungs and cause lung cancer,” he said.
EMA is a statutory body responsible for ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment, prevention of pollution and environmental degradation. It was established under the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27) and operationalised through statutory instrument 103 of 2003.
Medical experts say air pollution could lead to emphysema (accumulation of smoke in lungs), chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, heart attacks and stroke. The exposure to carbon monoxide results in a variety of neurological symptoms including headache, fatigue and nausea.
On the other hand, the inefficiency of both Chitungwiza and Harare municipalities has left residents with no option but to dump litter during the wee hours of the morning at illegal dumping sites.
Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) chairperson Precious Shumba confirmed the existence of nocturnal polluters and how local authorities have failed to address the menace.
“Late night pollution is a problem that has been experienced by nearly all the communities. From our community interactions, the HRT has learned that some residents have become so frustrated by the inconsistent refuse collections that they no longer know when their refuse would be collected,” he said.
“So they make it a point to empty their household bins at illegal dump-sites created in their neighbourhoods, and most of them resort to burning their garbage, contaminating the air in the process.”
Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers’ Association director Shamiso Mtisi said the continued pollution in the city is clear evidence that penalties for environment polluters were not deterrent enough.
“The government should impose stiff penalties on those who pollute the environment. The current penalties are not severe enough to scare perpetrators,” he said.
EMA has been fining local authorities a maximum penalty of $5 000 for polluting the environment but the amount seems to be too little to deter councils.
EMA publicity officer for Mashonaland East Province and Chitungwiza Astas Mabwe confirmed the existence of nocturnal polluters and blamed council for not being competent in dealing with the issue.
“In Unit O in Chitungwiza waste management monitors have been trained to monitor in the area. Generally the council seems to be overwhelmed with the solid waste. They seem not to be regularly collecting waste and because people know that dumping is a prosecutable offence they do it under the cover of darkness. To mitigate the problem, EMA has done awareness campaigns through meetings and road shows,” said Mabwe.
However Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said that the council’s environmental by-laws are effective.
“Our environmental pollution by-laws are very effective. Council encourages residents who notice such bad behaviour to report to either ZRP or council. This is the reason why we also have litter monitors in our communities.
“We have so far trained more than 600 anti-litter monitors in Mbare, Sunningdale, Warren Park and Glen View 7. We hope by the end of next year we would have trained anti-litter monitors city-wide,” Chideme said.