Filthy high­ways tar­nish Zim im­age

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion/national News -

LIT­TER­ING con­tin­ues to be a se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal problem in Zim­babwe and more cor­rec­tive mea­sures need to be ur­gently put in place to re­verse the trend. Il­le­gal refuse dump­ing ev­i­denced by piles of waste ma­te­rial around ser­vice cen­tres and rest places at both ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas is a com­mon phe­nom­e­non across the coun­try.

This dis­turb­ing trend is in­creas­ingly no­tice­able along ma­jor roads and high­ways where the trav­el­ling pub­lic in­dis­crim­i­nately throw lit­ter ev­ery­where with some lit­er­ally dump­ing mounds of garbage on the road it­self.

One of the most pol­luted roads is the Bu­l­away­oHarare one. Sev­eral por­tions on the sides of the road are of­ten heav­ily lit­tered.

Used kaylite con­tain­ers from fast food out­lets, soft drink and al­co­hol con­tain­ers, empty bot­tles, plas­tic pa­pers, rub­ber and me­tal­lic waste, are the most com­mon pol­lu­tants.

Do peo­ple re­ally think of what hap­pens to the waste they throw all over and the associated haz­ards? Trash on the streets and roads could be blown into wa­ter sources where it would cause con­tam­i­na­tion. With the be­gin­ning of the rainy sea­son these could also be swept into sewer sys­tems through runoff where it would clog the sewer in­fras­truc­ture and wa­ter­ways.

Any­body could guess the re­sult of this. Due con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to the ef­fect of chem­i­cals and tox­ins from plas­tic bot­tles that leech into wa­ter sys­tems.

The dis­tance be­tween Lu­pane and In­suza, par­tic­u­larly around Ken­maur or St Lukes growth point, could be the worst pol­luted than you think.

This is de­spite the fact that this is a strate­gic high­way that is a gate­way to a tourism hub, Vic­to­ria Falls, and po­ten­tial in­vestors from di­verse in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tions, who make im­pres­sions about the coun­try on the ba­sis of any­thing they ob­serve on the ground, use that high­way.

This part of the coun­try (Mata­bele­land North prov­ince) is a habi­tat to di­verse wildlife species and do­mes­tic an­i­mals that are dan­ger­ously at­tracted by these waste sub­stances.

When will Zim­bab­weans learn that food waste lit­tered from ve­hi­cles in our high­ways at­tracts an­i­mals to the road where they get into traf­fic and risk be­ing killed? The spate of ac­ci­dents and re­sul­tant loss of life in­volv­ing do­mes­tic an­i­mals in the coun­try’s high­ways speaks vol­umes about this reck­less at­ti­tude to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns. In some in­stances open con­tain­ers thrown on the sur­face hold wa­ter and be­come a good breed­ing place for mos­qui­toes and some bac­te­ria.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Agency (EMA) ac­knowl­edges the problem. “The is­sue of waste man­age­ment is a chal­lenge in most ur­ban cen­ters, growth points as well as ru­ral ser­vice cen­tres. Piles of waste are seen on most road side and open spa­ces. Lit­tered roads seem to be the order of the day in most ur­ban cen­tres,” said EMA in one of its re­cent pub­lic aware­ness no­tices.

“The pri­mary source of lit­ter in the cities, among oth­ers, has been pedes­tri­ans throw­ing un­wanted ma­te­ri­als in the streets, dump­ing of waste by shop own­ers and the dis­card­ing of waste by mo­torists through the win­dows.”

One won­ders whether the scourge of lit­ter­ing in Zim­babwe is a symp­tom of in­ef­fec­tive laws or lack of aware­ness? In­deed EMA is do­ing its part in ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic but more needs to be done in mon­i­tor­ing op­er­a­tions and bring­ing the cul­prits to book. Mem­bers of the pub­lic should dis­cour­age lit­ter­ing in their midst while spot fines should be levied on of­fend­ers.

Per­haps this calls for the tight­en­ing of laws and stiffer penal­ties on of­fend­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers of the pol­lut­ing ma­te­ri­als. When will a lit­ter free Zim­babwe be pos­si­ble? This task could not be left to EMA alone. In­di­vid­ual Zim­bab­weans, of­ten the per­pe­tra­tors, need to play their part as well and be re­spon­si­ble enough not to throw lit­ter in un­des­ig­nated places. Our peo­ple need to dis­card the men­tal­ity that some­one else will clean up their mess.

Given that lit­ter­ing ap­pears to be part of a Zim­bab­wean cul­ture, re­vers­ing the trend would also re­quire in­creased en­gage­ment with so­cial­i­sa­tion agents like schools, churches and the civic so­ci­ety, media and com­mu­nity lead­ers to spear­head the cause and in­cul­cate a sense of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­scious­ness.

Pri­vate and pub­lic trans­porters need to have lit­ter bins in their ve­hi­cles for refuse col­lec­tion, which will be dis­posed of at ap­pro­pri­ate places. Rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties, par­tic­u­larly coun­cils, should make swift en­gage­ments on pro­cure­ment and in­stal­la­tion of more bins on lay-bys along the roads and at ser­vice cen­tres. These should be fol­lowed up with ef­fec­tive refuse col­lec­tion and dis­posal pro­grammes that will en­sure a healthy en­vi­ron­ment. Un­less Zim­babwe acts on this problem, pol­lu­tion will per­sist and the cost of re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the en­vi­ron­ment af­ter­wards would heav­ily drain the fis­cus.

Ve­hic­u­lar wreck­ages left af­ter ac­ci­dents or break­downs is also a com­mon fea­ture on Zim­babwe’s high­ways. A snap sur­vey con­ducted be­tween Jot­sholo and Bu­l­awayo alone re­vealed that there are 10 ve­hi­cle wreck­ages that have been left there for a long time. One of the wreck­ages near In­suza has been turned into shel­ter by il­le­gal fuel deal­ers.

In June this year, EMA also did an in­ven­tory of all ve­hi­cle wreck­ages along the Vic­to­ria Falls to Bu­l­awayo and Bu­l­awayo to Harare High­ways. The sur­vey found that the area within Mata­bele­land North prov­ince alone had 22 shells.

The en­vi­ron­ment watch­dog went on to ap­proach the var­i­ous po­lice sta­tions for them to pro­vide de­tails of the own­ers of the ve­hi­cles. The po­lice were only able to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on only three out of the 22 shells with the rest of the shells said to have been left dur­ing ac­ci­dents that oc­curred more than three years ago whose in­for­ma­tion had been archived. These have also be­come an eye­sore on our high­ways and paint a wrong im­pres­sion about the coun­try.

It would be pru­dent that metal scrap­ers chip in and re­move the wreck­ages to sal­vage for parts or scrap metal that could be re­cy­cled. More in­vest­ment is needed in set­ting up such re­cy­cling cen­tres across the coun­try, which would as­sist in man­ag­ing waste as well as cre­ate busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties on a long term ba­sis.

Lit­ter on the road­side near the Vic­to­ria Falls Bridge

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