THE Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) has described the failure by the urban councils to collect refuse as a human rights violation because it exposes citizens to health risks.
This follows a damning report by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri, which revealed that most local authorities were struggling with refuse management.
MIHR coordinator Khumbulani Maphosa said key environmental concerns noted by the Auditor-General’s report include the worrying increase of dumpsites in populated areas.
Chiri’s report, for instance, noted that Masvingo City Council’s Victoria Range landfill site was unsuitable, as it is too close to the residential areas. It was also revealed that Mutare City Council has been operating without an approved dumpsite in compliance with environmental management legislation.
“The one in use (for Mutare) was situated near a river and development of residential stands was underway around the dumpsite making its location unsuitable for continued use. The affected residential areas were Gateway City, Darlington and Clay Hill. Bindura Municipality has no standard engineered landfill but was using a decommissioned mine site,” Maphosa said.
Chiri reported that the de-commissioned mine dumpsite used by Bindura Municipality remained non-compliant with Environmental Management Agency (EMA) requirements as it was unregistered.
She also noted that Marondera Rural District Council used a dumpsite that is not compliant at Mahusekwa Growth Point while Bubi Rural District Council was operating without a landfill site.
The AG report states that the other problem noted is lack of proper refuse equipment like compactors and refuse collection trucks.
The report further states that Masvingo City Council is operating with three, instead of the required six refuse compactors and this result in refuse at the landfill site not compacted at all.
Chitungwiza Municipality was operating with one refuse compactor and old garbage collection trucks that frequently broke down.
Indications are that a near similar scenario was noted in Binga Rural District Council where the local authority relies on a tractor to collect garbage as it does not have refuse collection trucks.
Maphosa said: “With 43 local authorities still to be audited, MIHR is concerned by the inability of local authorities to have standard scientific engineering landfill sites and proper standard and adequate refuse management equipment. Unsuitable landfill sites pose a threat to environmental management, increase land pollution, air-pollution and pollution of underground water sources through leachates.
“We therefore call on the local authorities to expedite the construction of proper landfill sites and procurement of suitable garbage collection and management vehicles. Innovative funding mechanisms may need to be developed to fund environmental management concerns. Government through the ministry of Environment, Water and Climate to develop a Treasury funded program of action to assist local authorities finance standard landfill sites construction.”
He added that Parliament must amend the Environment Management Act [Chapter 20:27) and specifically devolve the management of the Environmental Fund to Provincial and District authorities.