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Bulawayo council sued over air pollution

by Staff reporter
04 Oct 2021 at 05:51hrs | Views
THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has taken Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to court for failing to properly manage its sanitary landfill site popularly known as Ngozi Mine in Richmond suburb resulting in air pollution affecting residents.

The hazardous smoke coming from the landfill is encroaching the nearby Cowdray, Richmond and Norwood suburbs thereby putting residents' lives at risk.

EMA said at one time in May this year, about six hectares of the landfill was on fire for 15 consecutive days. Plumes of smoke stretching more than a radius of 10km were recorded with several residents complaining of major respiratory health effects after smoke inhalation.

Last month Cowdray Park residents petitioned BCC to address the landfill air pollution, saying the hazardous smoke wafting into their houses was putting their lives in danger.

The residents complained that due to the smoke from the landfill, they were developing respiratory diseases.

Recent studies have shown that air pollution is linked to childhood cancers and cognitive impairment in both children and adults.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up to 14 percent of all children aged five to 18 have asthma and every year, more than 500 000 children younger than five years die from respiratory diseases linked to air pollution.

It may also affect foetal brain growth and prolonged exposure to air pollution can also lead to heart and lung-related illnesses.

Ema wants the court to direct council to take necessary measures to properly manage the Ngozi Mine landfill waste disposal site by implementing proper fire prevention measures.

The failure by council to properly manage the landfill has resulted in repeated incidents of uncontrolled burning of waste material leading to air pollution within the three affected suburbs. Thick plumes of smoke billowing from the sprawling landfill site are a daily sight.

Ema, through its lawyers, Dube, Manikai and Hwacha Legal Practitioners, filed an application at the Bulawayo High Court citing BCC and Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube as respondents.

The agency is seeking a mandatory interdict directing BCC to come up with a waste management plan in terms of the Environmental Management Act.

In his founding affidavit, Ema's director for environmental management services, Mr Steady Kangata said BCC's failure to take measures to manage the landfill is in violation of the Ema Act and regulations related to air pollution and the Constitution.

"This is an application seeking a mandatory interdict directing the first respondent (BCC) to take measures as may be directed by Ema to properly manage its Richmond sanitary landfill waste disposal site, and to implement proper fire prevention measures," he said.

"BCC operates a waste management enterprise at its Richmond sanitary landfill site and has a duty to act responsibly in its management so as to ensure that it doesn't violate Bulawayo citizens' right to a clean and safe environment as enshrined in section 73 of the Constitution."

Mr Kangata said on 12 May this year, there was a fire outbreak at Richmond sanitary landfill, which led to the release of unimaginable amounts of air pollution in the surrounding suburbs of Norwood, Cowdray Park and Richmond.

"About six hectares of the landfill was on fire for 15 consecutive days. Plumes of smoke stretching more than a radius of 10km were recorded with several residents complaining of major respiratory health effects after smoke inhalation," he said.

"The burning of the landfill caused deterioration of ambient quality air in the Bulawayo locality as evidenced by elevated airborne particles maximums which were recorded at all seven monitoring points."

Mr Kangata said Ema issued an environmental protection order against BCC and ordered the local authority to put out the fire and submit a comprehensive environmental management plan (EMP).

"The EMP was supposed to address issues to do with landfill fire preparedness, alternating waste and soil compaction plan, landfill access security, landfill hazardous entry control plan, substances empty control plan, waste pickers plan and new cells construction and old cells decommissioning plan as well as allocating a budget enough for is implementation," he said.

Ema said air pollution from the landfill fire contains toxins such as dioxins and furans, which have proven respiratory health implications to persons exposed to these pollutants.

"The first respondent has repeatedly shown genera disregard to follow proper waste management practices and this has led to this recurring problem of fire outbreaks and massive pollution within the city.

There is need for an order from this Honourable Court directing BCC to urgently address its waste management approach at the dumpsite and ensure measures are in place to prevent as well as mitigate the impact of these recurring fire incidents," said Mr Kangata.

He said compromised respiratory systems are extremely susceptible to Covid-19 hospitalisation and death thereof.

"In terms of section 73 (1) (a) of the Constitution, every person has a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being. Such rights are also firmly entrenched in terms of section 4 (1) of the Ema Act in which all Government agencies are mandated to prevent or minimise all negative impact on the environment," said Mr Kangata.

He said failure by BCC to adhere to the Ema guidelines has resulted in violation of fundamental human rights of the citizens of Bulawayo.

Mr Kangata said Ema has tried to hold BCC accountable for pollution without success.

"It is in accordance with our statutory duty to protect the environment that Ema has a substantial interest justifying the relief sought. All the remedies provided for in terms of the law have been adopted by the Ema but failed to yield positive results as BCC is not moved by the environmental protection order issued to them," he said.

BCC is yet to respond.

Source - The Chronicle