Rubbish dump is a hazard for some but a lifeline for others
“I know that the discarded food could be dangerous to the health of me and my child, but I don’t have an option.”
In the small farming town of Paterson, 70 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, residents say a poorly managed dumping site poses a health hazard. However, other members of the community scratch a living out of the rubbish.
Concerned residents say construction companies, including municipal vehicles, dump not only garbage but soil and gravel close to their houses on the road that leads to the site.
Maria, who would not give her surname, wants the site fenced off. She says, “It is very shocking that big companies are openly violating the municipal by-laws. They are not dumping in the designated area. The trucks just dump their rubbish close to our houses … The road is filled with rubbish… The whole area has an unbearable smell.”
She says dogs and animals come to scavenge and people also collected rotten food from the site. “There is always fire at the dumping site … It pollutes the environment,” she says. She also complains of stagnant water that has turned black at the dump.
But 40-year-old Hilton Goliath, who lives alone in a shack in Moreson, says, “The dumping site is a source of income for many unemployed residents here. There are very few job opportunities in this town. I spend most of my time on the dumping place where I collect valuable things, like metal cans, wooden pallets and food.” He says he resells these, but the local scrapyard “offers very little money compared to those in Port Elizabeth”.
Elmarie Gouza says she collects food at the site. “The money that I get from the informal jobs [she does domestic work] is not enough for the upkeep of my child. This is the reason I am looking for valuables that includes food from this rubbish. I know that the food could be dangerous to the health of me and my child, but I don’t have an option. These restaurants throw away raw meat and tinned food here. I first clean the meat and boil it. I put some spices to make it smell good. It is helping me very much, because the food is free and tastes very good.”
Isaac Gabriel, who collects old shoes and clothing at the site, says, “Many people despise me because they say I am scavenging and scrambling for food with animals. There are many dogs, wild pigs and cats that also look for food on this dump site.”
Spokesperson for the Sundays River Municipality Vuyiseka Mboxela said, “The dumping site is amongst the key priorities that our residents have raised during the public road show meetings. They raised that the dumping site should be secured and fenced. So it is an area that we are to act on soon after the budget has been adopted.”
“Even with the highest economic disparities that our country at large faces, a dumping site cannot be what we condone as a way of survival for our communities,” Mboxela said.
There are just too many layers of administration. When the people complain, according to the procedures, the complaint goes one level up and may just be discussed at the next level up. This goes on for an extended number of months or years.
The people riot and/or burn a school. They get told to complain through the proper channels. They riot again and burn another school, the people at the top suddenly take notice and make promises.
The people wait for the promises to be put into place, ....wait.....wait..... ....
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