City to blame for Pomona fire

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THE outcry over the uncontrolled fire at the Pomona dumpsite in the outskirts of Harare recently caused a huge media frenzy.
While the outcry might genuinely be from environmentalists concerned about correct waste disposal, it is also from those who clearly want to declare the incompetence and ignorance of local authorities.
Our problem in all that mess is that we as African people have done away with our traditional systems of governance that forbade us from throwing litter anywhere else, but mudurunhuru (pit) and build anywhere near rukova (riverside).
What then has become of us and why should authorities be blamed for correcting the wrongs?
Many people in the name of access to basic shelter have been seen constructing houses, churches and shopping malls on wetlands, jeopardising their own welfare and that of downstream communities who depend on services provided by wetlands.
The recent tour of Pomona dumpsite and Chitungwiza held by the Deputy Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Engineer Simon Musanhu indicated that while separation of waste can be done at source, the local authorities have not adopted a method in which the separated waste is collected in that form.
It also indicated that those who are in positions of authority knowingly use available systems to break environmental principles and requirements.
According to Environmental Management Agency’s officer responsible for solid waste Gilbert Mugunzva the failure by the Harare City Council to have a proper landfill for waste disposal at the Pomona dumpsite or anywhere in Harare resulted in the mishap which recently occurred.
It is not the first time the dumpsite has had such a fire outbreak as the same also occurred in the 1990s.
This time around it is believed to have been started by a vagrant at 2am.
“We appreciate that there is no proper landfill for Harare City Council which is why they are still using a dumpsite because many countries are no longer using this method,” Mugunzva said.
“However, if the City Council had been doing waste compacting effectively, there would not have been a fire outbreak.
“EMA had tried to make sure that fireguards were constructed and had served them with orders between June and August, but the law does not allow EMA to do anything else.
“The Harare City Council will continue to use the dumpsite until they can construct the landfill in an already identified place.”
EMA’s publicity and education manager Steady Kangata indicated that the fines that his organisation charge are only deterrent to individuals as companies and city councils seem to prefer to budget for fines than put correct measures in place.
Kangata said the dumpsite had resulted in the pollution of underground water as evidenced by the water in the organisation’s boreholes which are in the surrounding area.
“They put up boreholes so that we could give evidence to the city council the disadvantages of using dumpsites over landfills.”
Meanwhile the wetlands scenario in Chitungwiza on the other hand revealed that an MDC-T councillor one Manyonganise was allocating housing stands to land desperate people on wetlands.
Although out of office, the former councillor appeared to still have connections within the council that are approving plans, inspecting different building stages.
Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 calls for ecosystems protection making utilisation of wetlands prohibited unless under maximum guidance.
The immediate worry for concerned individuals however is the money spent developing those places, accommodation needs and that there is expertise to build in such areas.
While all the above reasons can easily pass for genuine human rights cases that can be pursued once demolishing such structures takes place, basic fundamentals of the environment are against it.
It is such incidences that have caused the ousted MDC-T political party’s spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora to accuse Minister of Local Government Dr Ignatius Chombo of wanting to cause another Murambatsvina.
Dr Chombo has declared that no allocation of stands on undesignated land should continue and tasked his deputy Biggie Matiza to investigate the matter.
Also speaking to journalists during the tour, deputy minister Engineer Musanhu said lawlessness could not be encouraged.
“We as a ministry have observed slow response to complying with the environmental law,” he said.
“We will deal with them proactively.
“It is worrysome to see the presence of utility services in illegal places like these because we do not want to set such precedence and nurture lawlessness.
“Chitungwiza is a sad case of how lawlessness can cause chaos and heightened by lawmakers.
“We will table proposals for review of fines and environmental laws.
“It also requires all stakeholders to play their part in saying no to such as it exposes them to waterborne diseases.”

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