Drowning in filth
Komani’s ongoing battle against refuse
POLLUTION is stemming the flow of the Komani River and having a devastating impact on the aesthetics of the environment and the wellbeing of the people who live in the area.
The Rep took a walk through Komani last week and found several sites where the indiscriminate dumping of illegal refuse – and littering – were evident at various places, including the Komani River. Cattle were seen grazing near the river where a small mountain of plastic bottles was obstructing the flow.
A R20-million clean-up of the river, courtesy of government funds, took place two years ago.
Thobela Hlathana, who sells cigarettes at the taxi rank opposite the Rhawutini informal settlement, was watching two pigs eating plastic bags nearby.
“People break the law by polluting here. The municipality tried to clean this area, but people still dump.
“The people buy takeaways, eat and throw the containers away and they pollute the land and the river. I will not mention any names, but businesses throw their waste products here – either on land or on the river banks and these end up in the river.”
Local hawkers near the bridge near the Komani Correctional Services complained about the terrible smell emanating from the river and surrounds.
Lindiswa Komani, who sells food in the area, said the pollution was affecting her business.
“It stinks here and that is not good for my business and it gets worse in summer. We have to use detergents to make it smell better. We would like the municipality to help us by cleaning this area.”
Komani said there was also a need for public toilets in the area as faeces were often seen on the banks of the river while people urinated in the area. Security needed to be stepped up in the area as break-ins occurred, with people defecating in the hawkers’ stalls.
Spargs Store manager Bryan Kretschmer condemned the pollution. He said the mess in the area was an eyesore and noted a few causes of the pollution.
“I’ve worked at Spargs for 31 years and I remember the river used to be clean – you could see the fish swimming.”
Over the past 15 to 20 years, the situation had, however, changed.
“We have a municipal refuse skip at the back and our boxes and plastic are recycled. We have a compacting machine which we use to press down our waste and we hired a man to clean our parking area every morning. People just throw things out of the cars anywhere, even if a bin is right next to them. There is no respect for the environment.”
Kretschmer added that the municipality needed to ensure that facilities at the new taxi rank and near the Rhawutini informal settlement were opened for use and that public toilets were available.
More refuse bins were also needed in the area.
Xolani Ngxatu from the Unathi Mkefa residential area visited The Rep during the week to complain about plastic bags and other litter which were being blown into Ezibeleni from the tip site.
“It does not matter if I pick the papers up at 11pm, as it all returns shortly thereafter. In the afternoon, the children get annoyed as we constantly have to ask them to pick up the papers and plastic in the area as it is not a pretty sight to have our yards in that state.”
He said this raised questions about earlier municipal promises to move the tip made by the former Lukhanji Municipality (“Lukhanji council looks at moving landfill site”, The Rep, April 24 2015.)
At the time, it was indicated that an application for millions of rands had been made to the department of environmental affairs to move the site.
Last year June, then mayor Nozi Makanda said equipment valued at R7.3-million had been delivered at the tip site to start dealing with related problems and the municipality would spend R30-million on developing buy-back centres to create jobs (“Lukhanji feedback”, The Rep, July 1 2016).
But, Ngxatu said, air pollution remained a concern as fires on the tip resulted in smoke which blew into the area, resulting in the children getting sick.
“If they keep inhaling this air, what do you suppose will happen to them five years from now?”
The Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality communication department had not responded to queries despite e-mails requesting comment.
HERE PIGGY, PIGGY: Pigs rummage through rubbish in the Komani CBD