Residents living in Msasa Park and Park Meadowlands are demanding a speedy resolution to water and air pollution caused by fertiliser company Zimphos.
The residents say they no longer feel safe drinking water from their wells as they suspect the water might be heavily polluted through leachate from industrial dumps. The digging of wells in these areas has been necessitated by the lack of a municipal water supply. These areas are relatively new settlements, much of which are not on the water grid at all.
“We have to contend with well water. The City of Harare (CoH) have turned a blind eye to our plight,” says Shorai Gatsi, a resident of Msasa Park extension.
“We have not been spared from the smog that envelopes the suburb on daily basis It is difficult to breathe and this has triggered some respiratory ailments,” adds Gatsi.
Another resident, Dumisani Mpala from Park Meadowlands is also worried. He describes how in the pre-dawn hours, Park Meadowlands, Msasa Park, Hatfield, and Epworth are shrouded in a haze that lasts several hours.
“We are now living in fear because we don’t know the health implications of this pollution that has been going on for years. We don’t know whether Zimphos is meeting air quality control standards. It’s serious. At one point one of my children suffered bouts of asthma and other respiratory ailments,” said Mpala.
The adverse environmental and health effects from phosphoric acid production are well documented in numerous publications from the 1970s till the present day. However there are few specific studies on the impacts of industry and mining on adjoining communities in Zimbabwe, and little has been done to address this public health issue.
Health expert Stanley Mungofa says that hazardous substances from fertilizer manufacturing pose a significant threat to human health and can lead to immune disorders, toxic myopathy, chronic obstructive lung diseases with emphysema, chronic bronchitis, blood disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, liver dysfunctions, polyarthritis, swelling of feet and lower legs, muscle weakness, cardiac arrhythmia, reactive depression and memory loss.
Mungofa, a former director of Health for CoH, says that it is a requirement of urban authorities to provide running water to all residents, even to those inhabiting newly settled areas. Under the Health Act, this water needs to be clean. He added that studies should also be undertaken in new areas to ascertain pollution levels prior to occupation.
Speaking on behalf of the City’s Water Department, Engineer Hosiah Chisango said that it is also the duty of the developer of the residential stands to apply for water connections for residents.
Environmental Management Agency’s (EMA) Education and Publicity Manager Steady Kangata told Harare News that the agency is concerned about the situation prevailing in the area, and has sent officers to investigate and come up with a course of action. He explained that EMA has already reached an understanding with Zimphos over their toxic gypsum powder waste, but expressed concern that the waste already in the environment could take years to disappear.
Zimphos expressed a willingness to answer to questions from Harare News, but had yet to respond at the time of going to press.
Image: A waste pit that residents say overflows during heavy rain, causing the polluting contents to reach residential areas.