Illegal Dumping: A threat to the wellbeing of citizens In Zimbabwe
Illegal dump sites have been a major problem in all Zimbabwean cities particularly as a result of poor service delivery from the various responsible town councils. For instance, Chitungwiza is resident to 35,000 households and 60 commercial entities which are serviced by only 7 refuse trucks and the only loader and compactor truck available are broken down while Epworth has 6,000 households in the formal areas that are serviced by only one tractor and the remaining 16,000 households in the informal areas do not receive any refuse removal service at all.
This failure by city councils have resulted in residents resorting to dumping garbage everywhere given the opportunity. Various issues surround the matter of illegal dumpsites among them the attitudinal problems of residents as well as lack of information on the dangers of dumping garbage anywhere, a responsibility that councils have been looking down upon. Illegal dumping poses dangerous threat to health of ordinary citizens, as well as affecting the ecosystem and environment to be specific. Illegal dumping therefore can have economic, health, environmental as well as social drawbacks in the process. Here is a detailed investigation of the effects of illegal dumping in all facets of human wellbeing.
Illegal dumping can disrupt natural processes and the ecosystem on land and in the water. Dumping results in water pollution and the disruption of water flow in rivers. Dumping can interfere with proper drainage of runoff. Areas are more susceptible to flooding when waste blocks ravines, creeks, culverts, and drainage basins. In rural areas, burning at dump sites can cause forest fires and severe erosion as fires burn away trees and undergrowth. Dumped appliances can release hazardous chemicals including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the air which can harm the ozone layer. Chemicals from household, commercial and industrial sources can contaminate wells and surface water which can affect lakes, streams and drinking water supplies. The improper dumping of waste can threaten wildlife and aquatic habitats. Birds and animals can die if they become tangled in or ingest waste and fish and other aquatic species can die from litter and food waste that decomposes in streams causing a depletion of oxygen in the water as well as the clogging of fish spawning areas.
Appliances are a special danger for small children. Older refrigerators and freezers may look like fun forts or houses to kids, but they can easily become trapped inside. Other physical hazards to both children and adults include the risk of cuts and infections from protruding nails and sharp edges. There may also be less noticeable chemical hazards from toxic fluids or dust. Across towns disposable diapers and used condoms are exposed to kids who love to play with dirty from these dump sites exposing them to disease. Dumpsites pose health problems because of their attraction of mosquitoes, rats, cockroaches, and flies leading to malaria and cholera outbreaks (Masundire and Sanyanga, 1999). Some of the mosquitoes can carry life threatening diseases such as Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, and Encephalitis. Other insects, rodents, and additional animals attracted to dumps may also pose health risks. As mentioned previously, illegal dumps are also frequent sites for fire, either by spontaneous combustion or arson. The fires are extremely dangerous for those living in the area and especially for the fire fighters responsible for putting out the flames. Dumps can contain old aerosol cans or gas cans which can explode. Discarded chemicals from households and farms can also give off toxic smoke.
The presence of illegal dumps results in a decrease of neighborhood property values. The community as a whole also becomes unattractive to prospective commercial and residential developers. The loss of commercial development is especially damaging in poor counties where the unemployment rate is high and new employment opportunities are desperately needed. Also, without the tax revenues that accompany development, the funding available to establish and maintain effective illegal dumping prevention programs is limited. The costs faced by local governments to continually clean up illegal dump sites are significant. Some areas have spent up to several million dollars each year for cleanup, hauling, and disposal activities. The expense can then be passed to residents in the form of higher service fees or property taxes. Illegal dumping poses a challenge of having several types of waste removal fleet. Local authorities face the serious technical and resource shortage to meet their refuse collection mandate due to underperforming budgets as evident in Zimbabwe.
The above is a research driven fact sheet to point out the problems associated with illegal dumping in an effort to enlighten citizens on the effects of their actions as well as to compel relevant authorities to take into consideration that failure to contain the problem will not only affect the citizens but also increase the economic burden on the part of the authorities. It should also be realized that it’s every citizen responsibility to make sure that the environment they leave is healthy. According to the Environmental Management Act (2007), all people have the right to live in a clean and health environment which is not harmful to their lives. A healthy free environment is a constitutional right therefore every citizen has the mandate of ensuring that it has been upheld.