Illegal dumping of waste in Zvishavane wreak environmental havoc

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Nyasha Dube

Illegal waste disposal by Zvishavane residents coupled with an under-resourced local authority could lead to a health and environmental hazard in the mining town, EMA has said.

Whilst the local authority’s two refuse compactors are both down, residents, especially in high-density suburbs, have adopted a culture of illegally disposing of waste, most glaringly using baby diapers.

Next to a huge heap of solid waste in one of Zvishavane’s oldest suburbs Mandava, is a couple of vending stalls which sell fruits, vegetables, and snacks, a scenario that could heighten health and environmental risks in the mining town, which also has a high prevalence of diarrheal related diseases.

One of the vendors Esther Sibanda, lamented negligence by residents and vendors, saying they dump waste in that open area without considering the consequences.

“People just throw away garbage and vegetable remains which end up rotten and not only producing a bad odor but also causing flies everywhere,” she said.

Another vendor Victor Simango said most of the culprits are women with babies, who dispose of used diapers.

“Women with babies do not want to keep used diapers in their homes so instead of disposing of them properly, they end up dumping them near our vending stalls at night, this puts our health and environment at risk,” Simango said.

The most visible forms of solid waste on these heaps, which are not only found in Mandava but also in other high residential areas like Makwasha and Maglaz, are used baby diapers, plastic papers as well as rotten fruits and vegetables disposed of by vendors. Zvishavane Residents and Ratepayers Association (ZURRA) said they are aware of this misconduct by residents and continue to raise awareness of the deadly health and environmental implications of such behaviors.

“When council delays collecting refuse, residents illegally dispose of solid waste at these dumping sites where they live. We have once lobbied Zvishavane Town Council to construct incinerators to burn waste or concrete bins which can be cleaned. We wrote to the council with these suggestions, and we are still waiting for a response,” said ZURRA programs manager Peter Hove.

Meanwhile, Zvishavane Town Council currently uses two UD trucks to collect refuse. The other two refuse compactors which were donated by Mimosa Mining Company developed faults and are down. The local authority’s town clerk Ongororo Mazai said they have lately been improving in solid waste management, citing noncompliance by residents as a major setback.

“We have scheduled refuse collection every week in every suburb, but poor diapers disposal remains a big challenge. Our health department has been educating residents and advocating for a ban on the use of diapers and other non-degradable waste. We have intensified our clean-up campaigns targeting the problematic areas and we intend to form health clubs to spearhead health environmental solutions in communities,” said Mazai.

He also said they are facing challenges with their refuse compactors.

“We have two refuse trucks but both of them are currently down, and we are using UD trucks to collect refuse. As a long-term solution to this, we have already paid for our own compactor which will be delivered soon,” he added.

Despite the national clean-up campaigns held every month; poor household solid waste handling practices remain a great challenge in solid waste management in Zimbabwe. The lack of on-site solid waste handling practices like source separation and recycling makes it hard for local authorities and recycling companies to intervene. Accumulated household waste which tends to become a nuisance, often leads to coping strategies like illegal dumping and backyard burning, which is not good for people’s health and the environment.

Section 70(1) of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Act stipulates that no person shall discharge or dispose of any waste in a manner that causes environmental pollution or ill health to the other person. EMA’s Oswald Ndlovu says the issue of waste dumping in undesignated sites is a challenge not only in urban areas but also in rural business centers.

“In most business centers there are no bins and people use the pit system which is not properly managed. Such challenges can be addressed through the adoption of recycling. Residents should be encouraged to separate waste starting at the household level to make the process easier,” Ndlovu said.

According to the recent Auditor General’s report, most local authorities lack the right or adequate equipment to properly manage solid waste and man-land refill sites. This is despite the Zimbabwe constitution’s section 73 which provides for a clean and safe environment.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and National Development Strategy (NDS1) also have pillars that speak to waste repurposing and abating land pollution. The government also came up with an Integrated Solid Waste Management plan to reduce solid waste and ensure sustainability.

However, the issue of litter remains a challenge in most municipalities due to overpopulation in urban areas, as the amount of garbage generated by an average family each week is beyond the capacity of a bin. As a result, local authorities’ efficiency is compromised.

Zvishavane Town Council says it is in the process of acquiring a proper landfill to combat the issue of poor solid waste management.

“We have complied with all environmental laws, and we have gone through the Environmental Impact Assessment. At the moment we are using a dumping site in Maglaz whilst waiting for our proper one to be authorized,” said town clerk Mazai.

Regionally, the majority of urban centers use open dumping as their disposal method. Botswana has over 175 waste disposal sites throughout the country, only two of which are properly engineered landfills, but one has been reduced to an ordinary waste dump due to poor management and maintenance. This picture is typical for the rest of Africa. This poses a lot of challenges as the open dumps expose people, animals, and the environment to serious risks.

Most local authorities seem to pay less attention to their main landfills because they do not know better systems of waste management, and what happens at the landfills is usually out of their sights

According to a study by Zimbabwe Open University on the management practices and solid waste disposal sites in African cities and towns, Zimbabwe, together with South Africa and Botswana are listed as the few countries with engineered landfills in Africa, and in most cases, no Environmental Impact Assessment is done.

The study also states that in South Africa, municipalities are said to be facing challenges with waste management as each year, approximately 3.67 tonnes of waste are not collected or treated hence ending up being dumped illegally. In Kigali, Rwanda, the government installed smart bins in 2020 and launched Waste to Resources, a program meant to reduce pollution and promote recycling. It is time that Zimbabwe adopt better practices when it comes to waste management.

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