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Waste poisoned environment

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MWALUKOMO—This is bad to the environment

Despite intensified awareness campaigns, some people continue to pollute water with waste, putting those that use unprotected water sources downstream at risk of contracting waterborne diseases or even dying. THOMAS KACHERE writes.

The buzzing of flies disturbs what is, otherwise, supposed to be a tranquil environment. Instead of being subjected to a snaky noise emanating from the cool breeze winds blowing over the waters create, flies disturb the flow of the snaky sounds.

Welcome to Mudi catchment area in Blantyre, which is supposed to be the source of clean water institutions such as Blantyre Water Board (BWB) tap from for timely supply to residents.

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However, BWB should as well get ready to dig deeper into its coffers as, of late, some people seem to have discovered new ground for dumping waste: Mudi catchment area.

Heaps of waste have now become part of the environs, threatening water production by the water utility.

At the heart of the risk is pollution, which, unfortunately, is becoming a common problem in townships, towns, municipalities and cities. Uncontrolled dumping of waste is one of the factors fuelling the destruction of natural resources in the country.

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In cities such as Blantyre, it has become a tradition to dump waste in streams, and along the roads, without thinking about how the waste would eventually affect others downstream.

Some of the items being thrown anyhow in Mudi catchment area are disposable diapers, which are not easily biodegradable after their entry into the environment. The durable plastic they are made of become an eyesore, polluting the environment for a very long time.

One of the challenges the diapers create is that, when they are thrown around anyhow, they become ‘feed’ for domesticated animals such as goats.

At Mudi, goats roam around freely, feeding on diapers and other forms of waste— and yet they are herbivores that are designed to munch grass.

Whatever happens to the diapers inside the goat’s digestive system nobody knows.

Apart from goats, waste is disrupting lives of many people, including women that rely on the water for bathing and drinking.

For example, we found one girl bathing in the river, apparently after she had washed her clothes.

‘‘I bath in this river every day because I do not have access to other water sources. I know that the water is contaminated with chemicals and waste but there is nothing I can do about it,’’ she said.

Another girl from Chiwembe Village said it was unfortunate that people have been dumping waste into streams despite knowing that others use the same water for domestic purposes elsewhere.

‘‘We wash our clothes in this river because water is scarce here. However, it is becoming difficult to wash clothes these days because items such as diapers float freely in the water, which exposes us to diseases. We also spend a lot of time pushing them out of our way,’’ she said.

And, yet, others use the water for irrigation purposes.

Justin Temani, 26, who could not secure a white-collar job after failing to obtain a Malawi School Certificate of Education certificate, is now a fulltime farmer.

“In the past, I used to harvest huge qualities of maize and other crops. However, production levels have dwindled, and I am sure that it is because of water contamination. I apply the same quantity of fertiliser I used to [in the past], but production levels still cannot pick up,” he said.

‘‘I water my crops on daily basis and, as you can see, the water is not clean. This is affecting the growth of, for example, vegetables. The reason is that people upstream are dumping waste anyhow,’’ he said.

According to Temani, it could be better if every citizen took the responsibility of properly managing waste.

Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy Executive Director Herbert Mwalukomo described poor waste management as a “ticking bomb”.

‘‘Waste is being dumped anywhere, including in rivers and other sources of water. This has the potential to negatively affect the environment and distort the way people live.

For example, the waste that people throw in rivers ends up polluting water that other people use downstream.

“Waste also becomes an eyesore in rives, affecting the life of fish and other aquatic creatures. In fact, waste being thrown into rivers can endanger human life. For example, plastic papers can choke children, leading to death,’’ Mwalukomo said.

He added that waste slows down water and may also negatively affect drainage systems.

‘‘Indiscriminate disposal of waste is very bad. There is supposed to be a balance between meeting human beings and other living things’ needs if life were to be maintained,’’ he said.

In other countries, plastics, glass, metal and paper waste end up at recycling facilities. In Malawi, however, people seem to be turning rivers and other water bodies into ‘recycling’ facilities, creating an undesirable situation.

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