By Jermaine Ndlovu
Bulawayo residents residing in Cowdry Park, Emakhandeni and Richmond are living on a health time bomb as they inhale hazardous carbon dioxide from Ngozi Mine, exposing them to respiratory diseases.
Ngozi Mine is a Bulawayo City dumpsite in Richmond, where more than a thousand squatters live. The community came about as a result of the Murambatsvina displacements of 2005, the Chikorokoza Chapera displacements of 2006, and political displacements.
On a daily basis thick smoke from the burnt garbage is seen ballooning into nearest suburbs such as Cowdry Park.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up to 14 percent of 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.
A resident’s association leader Musawenkosi Majoni said the hazardous smoke that they inhale on a daily basis will in the long run kill them.
“The smoke that comes from Ngozi mine is now a part of our lives, we are now used to it and we have nothing to do about it as the council promised us that they will make plans about that but nothing has come out of the meetings with them.
We fear that in the long run we will all be affected by respiratory complications that will kill us if this mess is not dealt with,” she said.
Ngozi Mine is not just a danger to the surrounding areas that inhale the dangerous smoke but also to those who reside there.
“This is where we call home, I have been here for the past five years and my two children know this as their home. As much as I want to leave and find a better place I can’t since I am not financially capable of doing so. I will have to do with what I have here and pick up garbage and sell to waste recycling companies, that’s our source of living,” said a 23 year old female named Florenca Mathuthu.
The Ngozi Mine community has no access to water, the squatters usually access water at the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) dumpsite offices whose taps were turned off, resulting in them failing to access the precious liquid.
In the latest Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) Public Resource Management monthly report, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) agreed to supply Ngozi Mine squatters with water for a fee.
“Ngozi Mine is an internally-displaced settlement lacking access to basic services like housing and water services. It is a landfill site that houses up to 1 000 people, of which children under the age of 12 constitute approximately 40% of the population,” the ZIMCODD report read.
“The water that was being used for domestic purposes from the time of engagement with the community was not fit for human consumption, and there was a grave threat being posed to human lives as children were drinking unprotected pond water in which chemical waste is dumped, due to lack of immediate access to clean water fit for consumption.”
The report stated that failure by the BCC to provide water to the Ngozi Mine squatters was because the council viewed them as rowdy criminals that would victimize their workers.
“They also indicated that if the water could be supplied, then it would be an injustice to rate-paying citizens as the people in Ngozi neither pay rent or rates, which meant they would be benefiting from the efforts of others. However, continuous discussions between the council and ZIMCODD and other residents were held.
“Application for water to be supplied to Ngozi Mine on the condition that the residents would commit to paying a specified amount to an established water committee was done. These funds would buy water at city council prescribed rates that were in line with the charging system used for other locations, as well as cater for fuel for vehicles that would transport the water.”
ZIMCODD said on September 30, the council agreed to allocate water to Ngozi Mine for as long as the above conditions were adhered to.
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA), through its lawyers, Dube, Manikai and Hwacha Legal practitioners, filed an application at the Bulawayo High Court seeking a mandatory interdict directing BCC to come up with a waste management plan in terms of the environmental management Act.
In response and in defense, BCC chamber secretary Sikhangele Zhou said the council submitted a landfill environmental plan management plan (LEMP) on June 27, 2020 to EMA addressing the concerns raised by the agency.
“EMA took its time to respond to LEMP and only did so in September and gave us seven days to comply with what is stated therein despite the fact that they had the plan from June 17,” said Zhou.
She went on to say the council had responded on September 22 advising EMA that as it worked towards revising the LEMP on the issues that they had highlighted, there are some guidelines it needed from EMA.
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