Filthy highways tarnish Zim image
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