By Patrick Soko
The issue of land scarcity in Lusaka is prompting some residents of Chawama constituency to be burying the dam which has been used as drainage for many years, much to the displeasure of some people as they are continuously being subjected to open-air burning of waste thereby exposing them to health risks.
Most of the people who reside near the dam and those who have businesses around it have been trying to expand their land by encroaching the Dam by claiming to own the land in question.
While they are focused on allocating themselves pieces of land soon it will equally lead to floods as the area has a poor drainage system. But what would happen after this, is something that has never been discussed.
The dam located near Chawama Police came into being as a result of quarrying activities that were being undertaken by some residents of Chawama and John Howard compounds respectively.
However, what is regrettable is that the people are concealing the dam with garbage and sand among other materials through illegal means such as open-air burning.
The World Health Organization reported that in 2012 around 7 million people died and one in eight of total global deaths was as a result of air pollution exposure.
This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirmed that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.
The data revealed a stronger link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic heart disease as well as between air pollution and cancer.
This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
The people of Chawama have limited options on where to dump garbage, everything thing ends up in the same dam hence different substances containing different materials are being found thus posing health risks to the nearby residents.
The sickening smell of piles of illegally dumped garbage in the dam aided by irritating smoke coming out of the vicinity is what the residents are subjected to almost daily.
Some residents interviewed expressed disappointment that authorities have not been doing anything about the matter as they articulated their fear of contracting respiratory diseases.
“It has been like that here for some time, we are subjected to this kind of smoke it very very bad and these people just burn things anyhow and any time which is not fair,” Florence Chanda explains.
She has wondered why the local authority, area councillors and the Member of Parliament have not taken an interest in this matter.
However in an interview Chawama ward three (3) Councilor Kafula Mutale said the activities have no blessings of the local authority as he condemned the issue of open-air burning.
He assured to conduct the on spot checks in order to crump down the illegal activities.
“If they are people who are doing that, they are doing it without the knowledge of the council and if we find them, appropriate action will be taken because it is against the law to burning things at whatever time without following the guidelines,” said Kafula.
In the meantime, as provided by the Law, any person who contravenes the provisions of the Environmental Management Act (EMA) No. 12 of 2011 and Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 112 of 2013 is liable to a fine of between K1,800 to K15,000 or serve a jail sentence of up to 2 years.
SI No. 112 of 2013 under Part III states that
“A person shall not conduct open-air burning of waste from industrial, commercial operations or domestic or community activities except with written consent of the Agency.”
And the Citizen Environmental and Social Concern (CESCo) has called on members of the public to refrain from open-air garbage burning as it leads to the emission of lethal chemicals that pollute the atmosphere.
Organization Executive Director Conwell Hakapya said the corporate community and citizens must take up the responsibility of subscribing to garbage collection with management companies to avoid the practice of burning waste which affects the environment.
“Open-air garbage burning is a very big environmental challenge that needs concerted efforts not only by the government, local authorities and civil societies but also the general public because open burning emits greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and black carbon,” Mr Hakapya said.
He said black carbon has emerged as a major contributor to climate change and possibly second to carbon dioxide as the main driver of climate change around the globe.
“The emitted gases cause numerous health complications such as respiratory and skin diseases which mostly affect children and the elderly,” he said.
Mr Hakapya said there is a need for proper disposal of waste as part of pollution control measures in Zambia.