Rubbish piled up on the roadside outside Pietermaritzburg’s New England Road landfill site after it was closed. Kerushin Pillay of The Witness reports.
First published on 13 February by The Witness
The dump was again on fire, with the public being barred entry.
Waste-pickers scoured piles of rubbish for scrap outside the dump.
Witnesses said a small fire burned near the entrance of the dump.
Police and members of the Msunduzi municipality’s anti-land invasion unit kept watch and directed motorists away.
Guards at the dump put tyres across the entrance, preventing vehicles from entering.
The dump has been on fire several times in the past six months, but this was the first time the public has been barred entry.
Fires are usually confined to inside the dump.
Piles of household waste, garden refuse, bottles, and bags of rubbish lined the road outside. Some spilled onto the road, leaving only a single lane in use for about a two-kilometre stretch.
“Big trucks came here and were told to go away. So they just backed up on the side of the road and offloaded the waste,” one witness said.
Dozens of waste-pickers scoured rubbish for metal and plastic and any other material that they could sell.
One waste-picker said: “Since there has been a lot of fires and bad rains, we usually don’t get much time to look for materials.
“So even though it’s outside [the dump] today, we have to still search. We make money like this.”
A Hilton man who had gone to dump garden refuse told The Witness he was barred from entering, but told by a member of staff to dump alongside the road.
“But then as I started dumping the same staff member started taking photos of me and telling me I’m going to get fined,” the man said.
“I was very angry because he had just told me to dump there. I know what I was doing is wrong, but I did it on instruction.”
The man said he ended up leaving his refuse there anyway.
Mark Ireland, the manager of the Maritzburg Golf Club, said the golf course had to close its gates because of the chaos outside.
Ireland said they had been hosting a competition at the time.
“People come from Durban and we have competitions coming up and there’s this mess outside.”
Things were calmer by mid-afternoon, but rubbish was still piled up outside the dump late yesterday.
Human Rights Commission to investigate
Msunduzi did not respond to a query, but the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) announced it would investigate the landfill site.
The site is battling with poor waste management, pollution, non-functioning equipment and a lack of air quality monitoring.
“These have attributed to the emission of strong toxic fumes and the outbreak of several fires which are posing severe threats to the sustainability of the environment and to the health and well-being of residents in both the local and surrounding communities,” the SAHRC said in a statement.
“The municipality’s waste management strategy is still primarily reliant on landfill disposal and the lifespan of the New England Road landfill site was already flagged as being close to its exhaustion several years ago.”
“The SAHRC is therefore deeply concerned with the deterioration and current state of the site given its prejudicial impact on the environment and public health, which also includes several schools that are located in close proximity of the site.”
Click here to read how The Witness covered the story
- The Msunduzi municipality, the Department of Local Government Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Office of the KwaZulu-Natal Premier have yet to respond to Roving Reporters queries about how they intend to do resolve the crisis at the dump.
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