This article is our opinion. At the time of conceiving ideas to write the article we have not been politically manoeuvred or intend to discredit those responsible for controlling the activities at the site being discussed.
We aim to sensitize the public on issues related to the dumping site in our town Katima Mulilo. We discuss what we understand by land reclamation, effects of land reclamation through dumping refuse, its effects and our suggestions for a better Katima Mulilo.
Reclaiming land is an activity undertaken to make land which is unusable suitable for human use. It might be that land reclamation is needed on a piece of land due to: (a) the physical structure of the land dictates that, (b) land has been made unusable on account of human activities. Land reclamation for the former case takes place when the land is low lying; water collects in that land, it becomes swampy and becomes a breeding place for vectors. Our interest and focus is on the latter which we discuss below.
Human activities, mining in particular, extraction of natural resources from the earth including sand creates areas which will need to be reclaimed when the resource extracted is fully exploited. Also, cessation is done when mining activity becomes dangerous for humans. This is the case noticeable in Katima Mulilo.
Using government policy of sustainable development, the town of Katima Mulilo finds it imperative to close a large pit formed during those years they excavated sand for development of Katima Town. To ensure that future developments cannot exclude this site, situated on the southern part just close to the road going to Wenela Border Post, Katima Mulilo Town Council (KMTC) conceived a noble idea to close the pit using refuse.
The refuse is collected from residential, the surrounding shopping and industrial areas. The hope is the refuse will refill the pit and in future the area becomes suitable for human use. Once land reclamation of the site is done chances are; in future the Zambezi Vocational Training Center (ZVTC) or University of Namibia Katima Mulilo Campus (UNANKMC) might develop and encroach into the reclaimed area by then. Alternatively the same site can be for residential or industrial purposes. The two institutes are neighbours to this claimed dump site. Also, close neighbours to this site is the Export Processing Zone (EPZ), industrial sites and the informal settlement of Macaravan West which is not spared from the adverse effects of the dump site caused by human activity at the site.
One would expect that a visit to the site will make one sees only lorries coming to dump refuse. However, this is not the case. The dump site is visited by a number of people scavenging treasure from the refuse. Instead of leaving the refuse to fill the pit, some take the same material meant for filling the pit to use for construction of squatter huts.
This is common with those coming from Macaravan West but others from other informal location are also participants. Besides taking some of the dumped refuse, the scavengers at the dump site burnt the refuse. That is open burning takes place. These activities, at the dump site are a threat to the town of Katima Mulilo and its inhabitants.
To KMTC, it will take time for you to have the open pit reclaimed and used for other useful roles in the near future. Refuse is removed, not only to repollute, in particular the informal settlements but also carry bacteria which are a threat to the entire populace of Katima. That is the solid volume which could have remained to fill the pit is removed.
The close neighbours to the dump site, ZVTC, UNANKMC, EPZ and the entire population of Katima Mulilo get polluted when the scavengers of valuables incite open burning of the refuse in their search. Different gases are released into the atmosphere during open burning and solid materials.
Products of open burning, especially a mixture of garbage, are; dioxins, furans, arsenic, mercury and lead by products of combustion, carbon dioxide and monoxide, nitrogen and sulphur oxides and hydrogen chloride. The closest neighbours to the land under reclamation, those at ZVTC, UNANKMC and EPZ are hardest hit. When the mentioned substances are released, their smell is very strong in the mentioned places. Worse still dioxins and furans exposure from the dump site causes; certain types of cancers, liver and heart problems, impairment of the immune and endocrine system and reproductive system and have effect on a developing nervous system.
The other areas of Katima are not spared. The intensity of the smell might be less but people will get these toxins indirectly or directly when they breathe. Indirectly, solid particles of the products of open burning settle on plants and river and absorbed by the same systems. They end up in the food chain; fish mine in the Zambezi River, our meat at Namibia Meat Corporation will have these byproducts of open burning.
Carbon monoxide, once in our respiratory system, combines with hemoglobin to form carboxyhemoglobin because it has a strong affinity for oxygen. With such a property, this can complicate respiration process in animals. The other gases mentioned above are acidic. These accelerate corrosion of buildings, fast wearing of clothes and even make agricultural land acidic. Besides being acidic like the other gases mentioned hydrogen chloride is thirst for oxygen. However, it cannot react with normal oxygen we breathe since these molecules are strongly held together by Van de Walls forces but detaches oxygen ions from the ozone layer. That is it depletes the ozone layer leaving us vulnerable to ultra violet radiation. This type of radiation causes cancer.
Lead, arsenic and mercury pollute the environment through fumes and oxides formed during open burning. In our bodies they do not have a role to pole. Their presence then is a threat as this cause certain disorders.
Environmental pollution is not only caused by KMTC dump site where opening burning is taking place. We practice open burning in our plots as we try to get rid of refuse. This has the same effect as refuse burnt at council. How can we reduce environmental pollution and how can the authorities assist in such a case?
In the case of open burning done at household level, people must desist. Instead the refuse to be burnt must be put on a composite site where it decays and used as garden manure. This must be done after removing all the non-biodegradable refuse. Environmental pollution authorities should put in place some mechanisms. These can be teaching the public to reduce, reuse and recycle refuse. We can reduce pollution by controlling quantity and volume of materials which will end up at the dump site, in particular those which produce toxins. The community must be encouraged to reuse some of the products which end up at the dump site. Finally, recycling can be an alternative.
Even though such mechanisms have economic implication they can lessen chances of Katima Mulilo populace from a disease outbreak. The area covered by the pit can be big but is still within what KMTC can afford to fence. Fencing can prevent scavengers from entering. The implication is they are barred from carrying materials to informal settlements some of them which might be health hazards.
To ensure that reclamation of the pit remains a quasi˗ closed system, security need to be in place. A fence alone cannot deter people from scavenging and set fire burning at low temperature producing pollutants. The presence of a person guarding the place ensures that no one interferes with the reclamation process. However, locating a rubbish refusal dump in so close proximity to a large human settlement is a gross trespassing against existing Namibian Law, including the Constitution.
Mr. M. Mukwambo, M.Sc. in Physics
Prof. G. Kopij, Ph.D. in Ecology
Views expressed in this article are not of The Caprivi Vision Newspaper but are for Authors