A dirty, dirty war

Coun­cil, busi­ness see red over garbage

Lesotho Times - - Feature - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

a TIME-BOMB. a hazard slowly de­vel­op­ing into a cri­sis un­less the sit­u­a­tion is brought un­der con­trol as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

That’s how Min­istry of Health in­spec­tor Themba Fobo has de­scribed Pitso Ground, Se­fika and Manonyane taxi rank ar­eas in Maseru due to garbage which has made them no-go neigh­bour­hoods for some res­i­dents.

One could hardly stand the over­pow­er­ing stench in th­ese grime-hotspots that Mr Fobo fur­ther called “breed­ing ground for in­sects, wombs, flies, mos­qui­tos and rats”.

Busi­nesses have found it dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate in th­ese of­fen­sive spots as po­ten­tial clients give the ar­eas a wide berth for fear of con­tract­ing dis­eases.

“This is not only a nui­sance for busi­nesses but homes around this area,” Mr Fobo told the Le­sotho Times dur­ing a tour of the ar­eas this week.

“as you can see, th­ese hotspots are home to used nap­pies and con­doms, hu­man-stool and urine and in some cases, hu­man-fe­tuses.”

With chang­ing weather pat­terns, Mr Fobo said peo­ple who dump waste in th­ese ar­eas were not only de­stroy­ing the en­vi­ron­ment but ul­ti­mately poi­son­ing food pre­pared around the lo­cal­ity.

“in the morn­ing, we ex­pe­ri­ence cold weather, at noon ex­tremely hot con­di­tions, while our evenings are mostly windy.

“Be­cause of this weather-shift, the odour is at its worst dur­ing lunchtime, while the wind blows dust over peo­ple’s food.

“The dirty food can cause headaches, fever and di­ar­rhea. al­though we don’t have statis­tics read­ily avail­able, peo­ple are dy­ing be­cause of th­ese hotspots,” Mr Fobo said.

ac­cord­ing to Mr Fobo, some peo­ple have been di­ag­nosed to be suf­fer­ing from food-poi­son­ing af­ter eat­ing from res­tau­rants in th­ese ar­eas, thereby tar­nish­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of the food out­lets.

Dur­ing the Le­sotho Times’ tour of the ar­eas on Mon­day, work­ers at a prom­i­nent food-out­let were work­ing hard to rid the restau­rant of flies us­ing pes­ti­cides.

But ac­cord­ing to Mr Fobo, the law does not al­low such eater­ies to use the chem­i­cals in ques­tion as they could poi­son the food, re­sult­ing in loss of lives.

The sit­u­a­tion, he was quick to add, could be reme­died if all stake­hold­ers worked to­wards turn­ing Maseru into a bet­ter place.

“You just heard this lady say­ing the toi­lets here have not had wa­ter for the past two weeks and peo­ple are be­ing forced to re­lieve them­selves in th­ese hotspots, which now have dump­sites,” Mr Fobo added.

This wa­ter-scarcity, he fur­ther high­lighted, was yet an­other cause for con­cern es­pe­cially for street ven­dors.

“Lack of wa­ter means there is a pos­si­bil­ity that peo­ple are han­dling food with­out wash­ing their hands.

“even if they do wash their hands, how of­ten per day and do they use clean wa­ter ev­ery time? Do they even wash the tow­els clients use to wipe their hands?

“Those tow­els swap­ping hands are not clean and are a po­ten­tial health hazard. They are ba­si­cally not hy­gienic, which can lead to di­ar­rhea for the clients.”

Giv­ing pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to the garbage prob­lem, Mr Fobo said the Maseru City Coun­cil (MCC) should re­turn the large refuse-bins the mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­moved from around the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict last year be­cause of van­dal­ism.

in ad­di­tion, Mr Fobo said coun­cil should empty them at least three times a week to en­sure they do not over­flow, which could prompt ven­dors to burn the refuse, thereby de­stroy­ing the prop­erty and poi­son­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

How­ever, he also said the pub­lic should be ed­u­cated on what not to place in such pub­lic refuse col­lec­tion-ves­sels to en­sure their preser­va­tion.

“Dis­pos­able nap­pies must not be dumped in town and in th­ese bins. Par­ents must re­move the stool, dry and burn the nap­pies or dig a hole and place them there. ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes about such hy­gienic way of life should be in­tro­duced to en­sure a healthy en­vi­ron­ment and healthy na­tion,” said Mr Fobo.

On the waste’s im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, Mr Fobo said peo­ple can end up con­sum­ing un­safe wa­ter be­cause of such reck­less dis­posal of waste.

“You see this dirty wa­ter? it can end up in wa­ter-pipes, hence some peo­ple will have dirty wa­ter com­ing out of their tapes. This can lead to health-com­pli­ca­tions, so the ef­fects of this garbage on res­i­dents and the en­vi­ron­ment should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.”

a man­ager at a restau­rant which is very pop­u­lar around the area, told the Le­sotho Times the garbage was prov­ing a nui­sance to the busi­ness, echo­ing Mr Fobo’s sen­ti­ments.

“You see this black­ish colour on the ceil­ing? it is the re­sult of tyres that are burnt just close by here at night by street-kids. The smoke finds its way into the shop, re­sult­ing in this grime. Who knows, the smoke could be af­fect­ing the food here,” he told the Le­sotho Times on con­di­tion of anonymity.

A ven­dor op­er­at­ing a food-shack in the area also said the il­le­gal dump­sites were neg­a­tively af­fect­ing his busi­ness.

“We see dis­gust­ing things like used con­doms and fe­tuses and we are forced to clean the rub­bish at times, to make sure our cus­tomers are not of­fended and don’t aban­don this area for good. We do it to make sure our busi­nesses re­main op­er­a­tional be­cause this where we earn our liv­ing. But as things stand, this whole area is lit­er­ally a vast toi­let, and no­body wants to do busi­ness in such filthy con­di­tions.”

Yet the re­moval of MCC con­tain- ers has been a bless­ing in dis­guise for other busi­nesses in the Se­fika Taxi Rank area.

A ven­dor at the rank, Moeketsi Se­botsa, said the big fa­cil­i­ties were ob­struct­ing his busi­ness from po­ten­tial clients.

The big, brown/black refuse-con­tain­ers were be­ing used by coun­cil as col­lec­tion points, thereby en­sur­ing no dump­sites sprung-up in the mid­dle of the city.

How­ever, ev­ery time they reached their ca­pac­ity, ven­dors and at time street-kids and sex-work­ers, would burn the trash at night, hence their change of colour from brown to black.

Se­botsa (25) said the bins made life a mis­ery for him be­cause of odour, flies and fly­ing-dirt dur­ing windy days.

“Th­ese con­di­tions were chas­ing away my cus­tomers and I was find­ing it dif­fi­cult to sus­tain the busi­ness.

“i was about to move away from here when the MCC re­moved all such bins from around town,” he said.

How­ever, coun­cil spokesper­son, Lin­tle Bless, said it was il­le­gal to burn rub­bish in such con­tain­ers and in the city.

“The bins are made in such a way that they can only ac­com­mo­date dry refuse but ven­dors have con­tin­ued to pour wa­ter into them. in ad­di­tion, they also burn the refuse, de­spite both acts not be­ing al­lowed by coun­cil by­laws,” Ms Bless said.

“This is il­le­gal, and also threat­ens peo­ple’s lives. a few peo­ple might be happy that the bins have been re­moved but the fact re­mains that we can­not live with­out them.”

Ms Bless also said most of those who found the bins a nui­sance were op­er­at­ing their busi­nesses in un­des­ig­nated ar­eas.

“They might have per­mits to oc­cupy such places, but not to run cater­ing busi­nesses as there is no space for the dis­posal of waste, par­tic­u­larly liq­uids,” Ms Bless.

For in­stance, she said, ven­dors op­er­at­ing at a mar­ket­place next to Pitso Ground Po­lice Sta­tion can have cater­ing busi­nesses only.

“That place is only meant for cater­ers and not th­ese other busi­nesses that are there now.”

Asked why the “big bins” were re­moved from the streets, Ms Bless said van­dal­ism had forced coun­cil’s hand.

“They were re­moved last year; some will be re­paired and re­turned to their ini­tial lo­ca­tions while oth­ers, which we be­lieved were caus­ing prob­lems, would be placed else­where.”

Ms Bless urged the ven­dors to work closely with coun­cil in keep­ing Maseru clean by re­port­ing those op­er­at­ing with­out per­mits as they were the mostly likely of­fend­ers.

She also said sex-work­ers were de­stroy­ing the bins as they burnt pa­pers in­side them to keep warm as they prowl the streets at night.

Asked about the garbage hotspots, Ms Bless said it was wor­ry­ing that res­i­dents con­tin­ued to cre­ate dump­sites in town de­spite mea­sures coun­cil took to en­sure this did not hap­pen.

“We have boards clearly in­di­cat­ing that those are not dump­ing sites but peo­ple con­tinue to do so. We are also us­ing dif­fer­ent medi­ums to ed­u­cate peo­ple about dump­ing garbage any­where they please as we strongly be­lieve we need to change peo­ple’s mind­sets in or­der to win this war,” Ms Bless said.

She also urged busi­nesses to in­form coun­cil of­fi­cials of the cul­prits.

“i re­ally don’t un­der­stand why peo­ple op­er­at­ing around those ar­eas are not alert­ing us of th­ese of­fend­ers, un­less they are the cul­prits them­selves.”

an aban­doned MCC build­ing hous­ing all sorts of waste next to Pitso Ground Po­lice Sta­tion.

a WOMAN picks pa­pers from the garbage at Manonyane.

a MAN re­lieves him­self at an il­le­gal dump­site next to Se­fika taxi rank on Tues­day.

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