Today, we mark and celebrate the World Environment Day. Whilst we commemorate this important day, it brings to light some of the ills our communities face that impact on the environment in South Africa.
The United Nations (UN) has observed the World Environment Day since 1973 to increase awareness to the world about issues such as climate change, deforestation, the pollution of oceans and unsustainable development that could harm plants and animal species, and nowadays, humanity.
When one looks at our cities, you will find waste materials that have been carelessly dumped, deposited onto land where there is no approval that exists to collect waste by the municipality to accept such waste. The dangers of illegally dumped waste is the hazardous substances and chemicals that could cause damage to the soil, air pollution, noxious spreading, degradation of plant life, harm to wildlife, the surrounding groundwater, rivers, and all the way to the ocean.
The human health risks are exponential, it is unsightly and can also be smelly and dirty, and a potential for the transmission of diseases. Illegal dumping is an ideal breeding area for mosquitos and vermin such as rodents and cockroaches that can cause life threatening diseases. With the advent of Covid-19, it is more than ever before essential that communities should stop the acts of illegal dumping.
The economic impact of illegal dumping can be witnessed in the decline of value in property surrounding such areas. Municipalities spend a significant portion of their budgets using the ratepayer’s money that is diverted to clean up the eyesore dumps across many cities and towns in South Africa.
There is still a lot of work that municipalities need to include, improving by-laws and associated by-law infringements oversight and associated fines to curb the acts of illegal dumping. Illegal dumping through creating social and visual norms in our society and amongst communities with a negative effect on reduced community morale, reduced tourism, health and safety risks for the community and for those charged with cleaning it up, especially if waste was hazardous or contained sharp materials.
Children are vulnerable and can be hurt since they can walk into something sharp on an area or can play around with medical waste and other hazardous dumped materials.
The impact of illegal dumping on the environment cannot be downplayed anymore. It is a major issue in South Africa, particularly in our cities and towns since much of the dumping occur in the open environment, locations that lack visibility by the public, outskirts of cities and town as well as on the streets. It is important that communities are educated about the implications of illegal dumping to human health and the environment for the preservation of future generations to come.