Close the Msunduzi New England Road Landfill Site

Close the Msunduzi New England Road Landfill Site

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We, the residents of Pietermaritzburg, have lost faith in Msunduzi Municipality and our leaders to protect our rights enshrined in the Constitution.

The New England Road Landfill Site (“the Landfill”) has deteriorated to the point that it presents a serious risk to human health and wellbeing. Pollution and degradation of the environment is ongoing and fires at the Landfill have forced us to close schools and businesses because we cannot breathe.

Section 24(a) of the Constitution gives to everyone, the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing.

Section 24(b)(iii) gives affected people the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation.

As citizens of Pietermaritzburg, we are denied these rights through the political apathy and mismanagement by the Municipality of the Landfill.

Emissions from the Landfill, because of its failed management, are likely to include carcinogenic compounds such as benzine, and gases mixed with sulphides that produce unbearable odours. Leachate escaping the Landfill has the potential to cause loss of life and is already causing serious pollution of the Msunduzi River, an important source of water for the Sobantu community.

Air pollution in the city has reached levels where the discomfort of odours and the risk that the malodourous air contains highly toxic gases, has forced schools and businesses to close while the Landfill burns.

In the Sobantu community, increased respiratory ailments and deaths have coincided with fires on the Landfill. The risk of serious harm to the health of all people within the pollution plume from benzine and hydrogen sulphide, which are colourless and odourless, is ever present, even when there are no fires on the Landfill. All these facts are well-known to our leaders.

We have implored Msunduzi Municipality, we have implored the Administrator and we have implored the Premier of KZN to hear our concerns and to respond to our pleas for them to address this crisis. We have petitioned for the restoration of municipal services at least to established minimum standards insofar as the licence conditions of the Landfill are concerned. 

We have requested of our leaders the publication of a recovery plan (financial or for service delivery) prepared by the Administrator.  

We have appealed to our Premier, as head of the executive, accountable for the restoration of the Municipality to functionality, to address our concerns.

We have copied our concerns to the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs for information and appropriate action. 

The fires continue and our city continues to suffer.

Problems on the Landfill are not new. The Municipality has been issued with a compliance notice in terms of section 31L of National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998. It would appear that the Municipality did not heed the compliance notice. The Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs is currently investigating criminal charges, presumably against the Municipal Council and its officials. These actions should be made public so that stakeholders are made aware of the fact that something is being done about the untenable state of the Landfill.

One of the factors contributing to the deteriorating conditions on the Landfill is the lack of a monitoring committee, one on which local stakeholders are represented. It is condition of the waste management licence that the Municipality establish and support a monitoring committee. This has not happened. 

Although the Municipality and the Administrator have stated publicly that steps are being taken to rectify the problems on the Landfill, we are sceptical. We have lost confidence that the Municipality has the means or the will to do what is required to restore the Landfill to an acceptable level of management. Similarly, the Municipality’s promise that the Landfill will be closed within the near future and a new site established elsewhere, is treated with scepticism.

The public has the right to be fully informed as to what danger the Landfill poses to the surrounding communities. We have a right to know what steps have been taken and/or what progress has been made, if any, towards finding a new landfill site, and the source of funding for the establishment thereof.

The Municipality (and it follows, the provincial executive) should voluntarily disclose this information to stakeholders. This has not been done.

We accordingly request of the Minister that she urgently address the health and human rights crisis that is the Landfill.

We implore her to close this site as a matter of urgency, in the interests of the health and well-being of all residents of Pietermaritzburg. 

Please, Honourable Minister, hear us!