Residents in Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park suburb have appealed to the council to act on air pollution emanating from its dump site popularly known as Ngozi Mine, which they say has gone out of hand.
Air pollution is the largest environmental risk for public health as well as a major cause of premature death and disease, according to the World Health Organisation.
Exposure to air pollution is estimated to contribute to 62 000 lung cancer deaths per year worldwide—a large number of deaths.
In Bulawayo, the emissions from Ngozi mine choke the nearby Cowdray Park high density suburb, putting the residents’ lives in danger.
Residents said the emissions were a health hazard, and threatened to stage a demonstration against the council for failing to address their concerns.
One of the affected residents Mandlenkosi Makhalisa said they have been inhaling the smoke from Ngozi Mine for years.
“We only rest during the rainy season because the rains turn off the fires,” Makhalisa said.
“We are in danger and council is not taking this issue seriously at all.”
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Exposure to air pollution can lead to a wide range of diseases, including stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, trachea, bronchus and lung cancers, aggravated asthma and lower respiratory infection
“One wonders how dangerous this smoke is, considering the mixture of litter from all over Bulawayo,” Makhalisa said.
"If you ask council they tell you they are not the ones burning that place.”
He said they are sometimes forced to sleep with face masks on.
Environmental Management Agency provincial manager Sithembisiwe Ndlovu said they have engaged council without success adding the matter is still pending in the courts.
Council’s health services assistant director Charles Malaba admitted that council was failing to eradicate illegal waste pickers who are allegedly causing the fires.
“As a council we are trying our best to control the situation,” Malaba said.
“The settlement (Ngozi mine) is beyond council’s control. The material dumped there produces gases resulting in fires that take long to put out.”