By A Correspondent- The outbreak of prolonged fires at the Ngozi Mine dumpsite in Bulawayo have worried the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights which has since started to engage stakeholders over measures to curb the problem which is blamed for polluting the air with poisonous gasses.
“Ngozi Mine dumpsite has been burning for days. The recent development follows other sporadic dumpsite fires that have been a constant feature over the past 3 months,” said MIHR coordinator Khumbulani Maphosa in a statement.
He said as MIHR they urged the responsible authorities to swiftly act and convene a dialogue meeting with Ngozi Mine slum dwellers and waste pickers in order to find a solution to this serious matter.
He said Ngozi Mine dumpsite fires lead to the environmental and human rights concerns such as the noxious smoke and gases which cause high levels of air pollution affecting environment, health and dignity rights for nearby suburbs such as Cowdray Park, Emakhandeni, Luveve 5 and Richmond.
“The toxic gases and smoke released contribute to greenhouse gas emissions worsening global warming and climate change effects. Some materials dumped at Ngozi Mine are aerosols and can explode if subjected to heat. This is dangerous to waste pickers, council workers and passersby,” Maphosa said.
He said there is a lot of electric and electronic waste (e-waste) being dumped at Ngozi Mine and most e-waste, once burnt, becomes hazardous substances that are dangerous for humans, environment and wildlife.
“The fires are destroying valuable waste materials which could have been collected by waste pickers and either recycled or reused thus creating employment and livelihood sustainability for over 1 200 waste pickers and their families who depend on the dumpsite for economic survival,” he said.
“We visited Ngozi Mine for observations and interaction with waste pickers and we are convinced that the fires can be solved through dialogue and civic engagement with the Ngozi Mine waste pickers and the various stakeholders.”
He said they proposed civic engagement does not in any-way imply the recognition of Ngozi Mine slum settlement as a formal settlement but it is in recognition of the Constitutional mandate to enhance human rights protection for the greater Bulawayo community, the Ngozi waste pickers themselves and Council workers operating in that area.
Over 250 families are resident at the squatter camp with no proper shelter and ablution facilities.
Bulawayo Environmental Management Agency Provincial Manager Sithembisiwe Ndlovu said they did an inspection of the place and took measurements and we are engaging the council to upgrade the place and we will enforce the law as soon as processes are complete.
“This fire started sometime in May and it has been on and off and we are working on measures so that this should not escalate. We are worried about the environment and the health of the people so we are trying to follow a legal route to address the issue,” she said.