Some youths in Harare’s high density suburbs have been forced to resort to unorthodox means of getting income, as they are now burning old tyres to release wires which they use to make fences, in a move that has courted the ire of environmentalists.
The youths have resorted to the safety of the night to burn tyres away from the questioning public gaze.
Despite intensified efforts by the Environment Management Authority (EMA) to monitor emissions and pollution of the environment, this new crop of indigenous dealers has devised means of escaping the law, working under cover of the dark.
During the day, the youths gather old and used tyres from industrial sites which they burn during the night in residential areas that include Highfield, Glen Norah and Makoni in Chitungwiza. Ignorant of the hazards associated with their trade, they just harvest wires for reuse.
Some of the youths, in separate interviews with NewsDay, said they were usually looking at ways of escaping being caught and paying fines.
“We find raw materials by night and work by day.
“It is indeed a crime to burn things, that is why we do most of our work at night,” Tawanda said.
The wires obtained from burnt tyres are then used to make fences sold to pig and chicken producers.
Residents from Highfield confirmed that air pollution was wrecking havoc in their neighborhood due to reckless burning of tyres.
“Almost every night we are chocked by the smoke and this place smells bad,” said a resident identified only as Martha, who resides at the new flats along Willowvale Road.
Moses Mutaro, a security guard who works in the Willowvale industrial area, said the smoke produced a pungent smell and there was need to curb the practice.
“The smoke is very thick and disturbing. This whole place smells horribly. If there is anything to be done to stop these illicit operations, we would be grateful,” he said.
Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers’ Association director Shamiso Mtisi said the continued pollution in the city is clear evidence that penalties for environment polluters were not deterrent enough.
“The government should impose stiff penalties on those who pollute the environment. The current penalties are not severe enough to scare perpetrators,” he said.
Besides industrialisation, a multitude of sources emits air pollutants in urban areas of Zimbabwe, especially in Harare and Kwekwe. These include power plants, open fires and an increasing vehicle fleet which is ageing and not well maintained. All three types of sources are likely to contribute significantly to air pollution concentrations.
Zimbabwe has established the Air Pollution Control Unit for Harare and promulgated regulations for smoke and emission control. Recently EMA was promulgated which provides for pollution control and environmental impact assessment.
The EMA is not yet fully operational and the repealed Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act of 1971 is still being enforced for lack of an alternative.