EMA censures BCC over raw effluent discharge

BY SILAS NKALA

THE Bulawayo City Council is facing prosecution for discharging raw sewage into nearby rivers which is threatening aquatic life and livelihoods, recent council minutes have revealed.

The most affected rivers are Umguza and Khami. The discharge of raw effluent by council and industry is posing serious health risks to rural communities who rely on the rivers for domestic consumption and to water their livestock.

Town clerk Christopher Dube revealed in the latest council meeting that the local authority had been served with numerous orders by the Environment Management
Agency (EMA).

“The town clerk reported that council had been served with quite a number of orders from EMA for discharge of raw sewer into the rivers and the environment. It
had since turned out that EMA had escalated the matter and reported council to the police for prosecution,” the council minutes read.

“Council had been contacted by four police stations so far, who were working on four different dockets. It was a requirement at law that whoever would stand in
on behalf of council should have authority to that effect. Authority is, hereby sought for Engineer Simela Dube to appear on behalf of council and answer any
allegations relating to sewerage disposal issues.”

The full council meeting resolved that authority be granted to Dube to appear in court on behalf of the council and answer any allegations relating to sewerage
disposal.

It is not the first time the local authority has clashed with EMA over discharge of raw effluent into rivers.

In August 2018, BCC was also accused of allegedly discharging raw sewage into the environment from point and non-point sources, thereby putting human and
animal lives in danger.

Addressing journalists in Bulawayo, EMA’s then board chairperson Zenzo Nsimbi said the level of pollution was shocking.

He said during a tour, the board observed that the BCC was discharging raw sewage into the environment from point and non-point sources.

In 2014, there was a public outcry on the pollution of Umguza River by effluent that was being discharged from malfunctioning sewer treatment plants, pump stations and burst sewerage pipes.

Cabinet established a special taskforce to investigate the Umguza River pollution and granted council borrowing powers of about $13,2 million to rehabilitate
collapsed sewerage pipes and treatment plants.

Again in September 2018, communities on the outskirts of Bulawayo warned that their main source of water, Umguza River had become a health time bomb because
the water was being contaminated by sewerage discharge.

The river draws water from various tributaries, some of which pass through Bulawayo.

Most of the residents in the Umguza catchment area, which straddles Matabeleland North and South provinces, do not get treated water through tapes because they
are not connected to any water reticulation system, and are serviced by boreholes that are prone to contamination.

Chairman of Kensington Residents Association, Leonard Mhlanga said residents were at risk of contracting cholera if nothing was done to avert the problems they
face.

Bulawayo City Council was in 2017 convicted of polluting water sources such as Umguza and Khami rivers by failing to treat raw sewage and industrial effluent.

Pollution of the two rivers has, however, continued unabated.

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