The stinking corner of Maseru

The stinking corner of Maseru

MASERU – PANIC hit the Tšosane area recently when Maseru’s only legal dumpsite caught fire. But that was just the fear of quick destruction.
Residents who live within walking distance of the dumpsite feel they are being killed slowly and softly. There is only one legal dumpsite in Maseru, known as Tšosane dumpsite. The site is just 10 metres from some homes in the village. .
“Only God has been keeping us alive,” said ‘Mamoeketsi Tjamela.
She said she arrived in the area in 1992. And her health has been at risk for decades.
“We don’t understand how we still manage to survive with the contaminated air we breathe daily,” Tjamela said.
From drinking waste-contaminated water to choking in smoke on an almost daily basis, residents here always fear for the worst and the fire that recently engulfed the landfill was a reminder of the grave conditions they have endured for years.

Motimposo MP, Thabang Mafojane, said on the day of the fire, they worried that gases from the dumpsite could cause the fire to engulf nearby houses.
“We tried dousing the flames with buckets without any success until the municipality officials came with a tanker,” Mafojane said. “That’s when we were able to extinguish the fire.”
Future consequences of living next to the dumpsite are dire.
Apart from residents risking diseases such as cancer, babies could be born with deformities in future due to hazardous gases that people are being forced to inhale now, said a top health ministry official.
“Such a problem leads to chronic diseases such as cancer and reproductive health problem leading to babies born with disabilities,” said Thekiso Mokitimi, the Ministry of Health’s Pollution Manager.
“No screening of residents has been conducted to date but like I said, the possible health impacts are largely chronic and can manifest years after the closure of the dumpsite,” he said.

The dumpsite is situated within the catchment area of the Maqalika reservoir.
Water, particularly storm water runoff during the rainy season, flows freely into the dam.
The Maseru City Council (MCC)’s plans to relocate the landfill from Ha-Tšosane to Tšoeneng in Rothe have failed several times since 2001.
Since 2006 every budget speech in parliament has promised to fund the closure of the landfill but action has been zero.
Spokeswoman of the MCC, ’Makatleho Mosala, said plans are still afoot to relocate the landfill although she didn’t give say when and how much that would cost.
She hinted that it could be a long wait for the desperate residents when she stated that the municipality does not have money to build a solid waste management plant as well as buy consumables needed to make the new site suitable for waste.

“The MCC just cannot tell when it will be fully done because with the project of this magnitude, there are some studies that need to be carried out,” said Mosala, also noting that part of the work has been done.
She added: “We are working towards moving the dumpsite to Tšoeneng where we have already conducted some studies, having part of the waste moving there and trying to meet the needs that were revealed by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, a study which is mandatory to be done before any major project,” she said.
Mosala said the Environmental Impact Assessment is “a very long process”, which requires “a big budget”.
“Before moving to Tšoeneng there are community needs that have to be met such as water taps which we did in this financial year,” Mosala says.
“The implementation is done in phases, the sludge from Ha-Tikoe (a new industrial area) is already dumped at Tšoeneng so the waste will be moved bit by bit depending on the budget until it is all done.”

While the MCC takes its time to relocate the landfill, Tšosane residents said they cannot endure the environmental nightmare any longer.
“We have complained for years about this dump but no one has ever listened to us,” Mamello Maliba, a resident who lives just 10 metres from the landfill, said.
She has been here since 1996 and, at first, the signs were not that bad.
Then, what has now become a massive threat to their health was just a big gully caused by quarry mining.
“At first, we knew that only fabrics from the factories and waste from offices in Maseru were being used as a way to fill up the gully,” she said.
“The trash was burned. We complained about that and it stopped. Years later it is now our worst nightmare.”
“The smell, the flies, the filth surrounding their village is unbearable,” Maliba.

Hopes that the problem would be fixed briefly soared when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane visited a month ago. But then, nothing has changed since the visit.
“It (Thabane’s visit) was just a show. We are sure that nothing will change,” she said, adding that residents suspect that corruption is at play hence the delays in shutting down the dumpsite.
“It will not be soon because we know someone is gaining a whole lot from this site,” she said.
For now, residents will have to contend with an ever-present risk to their health.
Mokitimi, the Ministry of Health’s Pollution Manager, said no studies have been conducted to assess the extent to which the dumpsite could have affected local residents.
But there is ample research that shows that people who live near dumpsites are at great risk.
According to a 2016 Oxford University research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, “health is at risk for those who live within five kilometres of a landfill site”.
Researchers in Italy showed that a strong connection exists between Hydrogen Sulphide (used as a surrogate for all pollutants co-emitted from the landfills) and deaths caused by lung cancer, as well as deaths from respiratory diseases.
This was especially prominent in children.

Respiratory symptoms were detected among residents living close to waste sites.
These were linked to inhalation exposure to endotoxin, microorganisms, and aerosols from waste collection and land filling.
Waste disposal workers and other employees in these landfill facilities are at a greater risk, the study says.
It says exposure to improperly handled wastes can cause skin irritations, blood infections, respiratory problems, growth problems, and even reproductive issues.
It also says mosquitoes and rats are known to live and breed in sewage areas, and both are known to carry life-threatening diseases.

Mosquitoes breed in cans and tires that collect water, and can carry diseases such as malaria and dengue.
Rats find food and shelter in landfills and sewage, and they can carry diseases such as leptospirosis and salmonellosis.
Moreover, moisture production from waste is a breeding ground for mould.
Mould is a bacteria that has the ability to spread and grow given the appropriate conditions, such as moisture production from appliances and food scraps.
A 2019 study in Thohoyandou in South Africa’s Limpopo Province stated that the residents living closer to landfill sites face higher health and environmental risks than those living far away from landfill sites.
Landfills “should be located far away from residential houses and institutions to avoid certain health and environmental related risks,” the study recommended.
It is not only residents who are at risk.

More than 200 people eke out a living from scrounging at the Tšosane landfill and sorting garbage for sale at recycling companies in Maseru.
Its dirty and dangerous job they do without protective clothing.
“Most of the workers in that landfill are not even people from here. They come from Thaba-Tseka and other rural districts with other people promising them jobs only to end up here,” said Maliba, the resident whose house is close to the landfill.
Even residents living in the capital city some distance away from the landfill are far from being safe, according to studies.

According to a 2008 study titled ‘Technology for Waste Management Infrastructure’, some streams in this area flow freely into the Maqalika reservoir.
“Literature shows that the Tšosane dumpsite poses a health hazard to the whole Maseru community, especially to the consumers of water derived for domestic consumption from the Maqalika reservoir as a result of the dumpsite’s location,” the report noted.
Moeletsi Khoanyane, the Principal Health Inspector in the Ministry of Health, said water from a dam near the dump site could be contaminated by leachate, which contains poisonous substances.
“Leachate is very harmful to anyone in contact with it,” he said.
“The young girls and boys are at risk because they like swimming in the nearest dams.”

In 2001, an appraisal report was prepared of a solid waste management project in Lesotho.
The report included a condition that funds should be availed for the closure of the Tšosane dumpsite before the “Solid Waste Management Project” proposed through the Danish Corporation for Environment and Development (DANCED) could start.
It also said there should be funds available for the establishment of a new landfill for Maseru.
The “Maseru Waste Management Principles” talks about the importance of addressing economic and social added-value of waste management in terms of job creation and income generation.
It says the primary focus should be on the promotion and implementation of the 3R principles (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) as part of key solutions to addressing integrated solid waste management (ISWM) challenges in Lesotho”.
Until that happens the people Tšosane will have to live with the foul smell and the chocking fumes that come from the dumpsite.
No wonder they say the dumpsite is killing them softly.

Rose Moremoholo & ’Mamakhooa Rapolaki


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