Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) has lobbied the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to take legal action against the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) for environmental rights violations after it reportedly failed to attend to sewer pipe bursts and collect refuse.
MIHR director Khumbulani Maphosa petitioned EMA, Thursday, to address the issue by January 22, 2021.
In its letter, MIHR noted with concern inconsistency by the local authority in collecting refuse and unattended burst sewer around the city.
In the latest full council meeting, Bulawayo deputy mayor Mlandu Ncube chided the council for not attending to burst sewers and also acknowledged the shortcomings on garbage collection.
The local authority is mandated to collect refuse every week in high density suburbs and once in a fortnight in low density suburbs but for the past months the system has not been consistent.
Some residents have since resolved to dumping their litter at undesignated areas in their communities while some carry their garbage and dump it in council skip bins.
The situation has been further compounded by council workers who have gone on strike demanding better salaries.
“As MIHR, a stakeholder in human rights issues in the country, we request EMA to make available to us and the public of Bulawayo, measures that the agency has taken to hold BCC accountable and ultimately protect Bulawayo residents from environmental rights violations due to poor sewage and refuse management currently happening in the city,” read the letter.
“The problem of indiscriminate overflow of raw sewage and litter dumping has been worsening over the past 8 months. Being cognisant of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic and restriction measures, we request that EMA provides us and the public with this information between now and Friday 22January 2021. The issue is of public interest especially during this Covid19 pandemic period.”
Maphosa noted that EMA, amongst its duties, is mandated to assist and participate in any matter pertaining to the management of the environment; to regulate and monitor the collection, disposal, treatment and recycling of waste; and to regulate and monitor the discharge or emission of any pollutant or hazardous substance into the environment.
“There is increased raw sewage spillage and illegal litter dumping which is attributable to poor environmental management by the BCC. Councillors have also acknowledged these shortcomings as evidenced in the latest full council meeting held on January 6, 2021,” the letter read.
“The presence of unattended overflowing sewage and uncollected litter all over the City is a violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms and especially environmental rights as enshrined in Section 73 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe read together with Section 51 (right to human dignity).”
MIHR further explained in their letter that, as the local authority, BCC, is legally mandated and obliged to ensure the proper management of sewerage and the timely collection of litter. The local authority also has the mandate to enforce by-laws for the avoidance of pollution through indiscriminate littering.