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

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