By Dr Masimba Mavaza | OPINION | By sheer dint of necessity, the urban poor in Zimbabwe had invented an endless series of survival strategies to endure the high rate of unemployment and widespread poverty by engaging in occupations such as waste scavenging. Families have been sustained by rubbish slates generations have not seen their lives beyond the smelly heap of Pomona dumpsite, in that smelly confusion and settlement on squatter camps an unbelievable breath of fresh air swept across from the Geo Pomona Waste.
An opportunity of identifying a recycling skills from the scavenging people and a great creation of formal employment and providing Morden decent accommodation is a dimension Geo Pomona is bringing to the residents. Whilst the air is replete with evidence of the economic significance of this livelihood activity, there has been fierce criticism and demonising of this project by the opposition and independent councillors. Despite the fact that there has been scanty empirical work on its health implications the opposition against the cleaning of dumpsites is alarming and disturbing. Geo Pomona in its wisdom through the executive skills of Mr Delish Nguwaya the CEO and Executive Chairman has examined the health implications associated with the dumpsites and how to come out of rubbish without rubbish. Despite all the Rubbish being said about the rubbish Pomona is being transformed into a world class project generating energy from nothing.
The multi million investment deal to convert garbage at Harare’s main dumpsite at Pomona into a safe and inert form came to life and has been made a national project. The City of Harare officially handed over of the rubbish dump to Geo Pomona Waste Management Private Limited.
The deal involves the setting up of a modern rubbish processing plant that will generate a modest 22MW of electricity.
The project is projected to generate over 300 jobs while the structures are being built and boost economic growth.
Thousands more employment opportunities will be created after the structures are set.
The Pomona issue has been misrepresented for the benefit of those who suffer from a condition called antidisestablishmentarianism.
Despite being tormented by the press demonised and rubbished the Geo Pomona Waste Management Private Limited’s CEO Mr D Nguwaya under Geogenix BV, an international firm involved in dealing with garbage has literally created power from nothing light from darkness. While the power generation station at Pomona will be modest, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority already has other small and medium private stations now ready to feed the grid.
In a joint statement signed by acting Harare town clerk Engineer Mabhena Moyo and Geo Pomona Waste Management Private Limited country representative Mr Dilesh Nguwaya and read during the site handover, both parties promised to work harmoniously. However the city fathers who are largely from the opposition CCC have fought viciously against the project without giving regards to the beneficiaries who are the city residents. Instead of thanking the Government for creating a conducive environment for attracting international investors into the energy sector, especially at a time power shortages were a daily challenge some people have created lies which are meant to rubbish the good project.
Pomona project is leaving no one behind and has set its eyes on vision 2030.
The Pomona project reveals how scavengers were exposed daily to a myriad life threatening health problems as they sift for recyclable products. Nguwaya accepted that given the economic implication of the enterprise, it is important that the residents benefit from intervention programs that can reduce the adverse health outcomes associated with their job and offer them job opportunities.
In the past few decades, the process of urbanization has accelerated mainly in cities coping with informal hyper growth. These cities are characterized by an economy heavily dependent on the informal sector and very extensive poverty but Zimbabwe government has supported and made a turning point in the predicament by nationalising the project for the best interest of its citizens.
The high concentration of people in the emerging urban centres in the developing world has two implications: it leads to increases in waste generation and also creates a large pool of unemployed and underemployed residents with few alternative means of earning a living.
World over, economic downturn led to the development and growth of the informal sector in response to the unemployment growth. Among the informal activities that have grown in significance in response to the massive urban unemployment is waste scavenging.
A waste scavenger is a person who salvages reusable or recyclable materials to sell or for personal consumption. Geo Pomona has taken this into account and is creating experts out of the usually downtrodden residents. Scavenging from the waste stream is an important economic activity that provides income for over 15 million people worldwide, most of whom are in cities in developing countries, and it has a financial impact of several billions of US- dollars every year. Geo Pomona is channelling all this into the mainstream economy.
The project benefits both the people and the investors. Waste scavenging is a popular informal activity which depends on the quantity and quality of waste generated by the population. The proliferation of waste scavengers on the streets and waste dumpsites in Zimbabwe since the early colonial time represents one of the most visible consequences of the deep economic crisis which Pomona is turning into a blessing.
The ECO Mr D Nguwaya and his team have examined the economic significance as an efficient livelihood strategy, and the participation of scavengers in recycling policies. Despite the burgeoning literature on this enterprise, scant attention has been paid to the health risks associated with it.
Meanwhile, these scavengers live and work in unhygienic conditions and the nature of their occupation exposes them to potentially pathogenic bio-aerosols that may lead to the spread of various diseases.No one stood up for these people the moment D Nguwaya and Pomona lift a hand the noise is killing. The abundance of fleas and offensive odours in waste disposal sites, along with the lack of proper protective devices, make the working conditions even more precarious.
Scavengers collect plastics, paper, glass bottles, rubber materials, and ferrous and non-ferrous metals from dump sites, which can be risky as they are exposed to various infectious agents and toxic substances that may cause illness. In addition, they face social abuse from certain elements of society, which may lead to social problems. Yet nobody saw it only to make noise when development is introduced. If Pomona Project is not allowed to move on to overcome the hazards of the job, a greater majority will take to substance abuse such as smoking and alcoholism.
As a nation we must unite with Pomona and enjoy the development.