Illegal dumping is a health hazard as well as an eye sore Photo Supplied/Mujahid Safodien
Johannesburg – Illegal dumping is a growing problem in Johannesburg. Streets and open fields are littered with mountains of rubbish. Areas like Mayfair, Fordsburg and the inner city of Johannesburg have become dumping sites for many.
Illegal dumping in places in these specific areas is due to many houses not having bins. According to Mohammed Alex Christians, DA counsellor, Ward 58 is currently conducting an audit and the results so far are quite telling.
“What we found was even though the city would clean up two to three times a day, there would still be dirt on the streets. They haven’t completed the audit because there’s quite a number of properties, including the illegal shacks that are behind some of these properties. What we found is that many of them are occupied. Some of them illegally and some of them legally but without proper development planning procedures being followed. That leads to Pikitup not knowing how many households are on a property.”
Many of these residents are illegal immigrants staying in back rooms. They can’t apply to Pikitup for bins and their landlords are not willing to pay the extra amount for the extra bins. This is what the audit is picking up, explained Christians.
Residents like Imraan are concerned about how illegal dumping impacts the health of those living in the area. As the heat waves begin, the air gets more polluted by decaying rubbish.
“You have piles and piles of rubbish just sitting out. After a few days it starts to create this horrible stench. Then you have rats, mice, mosquitoes and flies everywhere. These rodents carry diseases as well and it is only going to get worse. As the days get hotter, everything decays faster and sometimes the air is so foul you can hardly breathe.”
Trying to get the illegal dumping under control
In a bid to get illegal dumping under control, Member of the Mayoral Committee, Michael Sun, have purchased 41 trucks to deal with illegal dumping, said Christians. These measures are being supplemented by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD).
“They have purchased 41 trucks that will be dealing with illegal dumping … He has also communicated with JMPD and they are in the process of getting an additional 60 JMPD officers. They will be walking the streets of the inner city and hopefully Fordsburg will be included. They will be physically fining shop owners and residents with their landlords for illegal dumping.”
Christians urged citizens to use the hotline to report any illegal dumping. Although people might not see illegal dumpers being fined, they are.
“We also had, when Michael Sun was the MMC for Safety and Security, the hotline for illegal dumping that is still active. We find many people don’t use it because they do not see people being fined but it is happening in the background. What they do is if you got a registration number of a vehicle, you send that number through. They will not go directly to that person and inform them that you’ve told them. They do it anonymously and if they cannot find the person, they do track down the rate details of those people and then track them down that way. So people have been fined.”
Fining has been working to keep shop owners from illegally dumping their waste. Christians used to run December blitzes with the JMPD and caught many owners dumping illegally. They were subsequently fined and resorted to legally disposing of their waste.
“It did make a difference because those owners of the shops then went to the owner of the building to say JMPD has fined us. We were told we need at least two bins. You’ve only given us five bins for 10 shops and that is why it’s overflowing and we go and dump. They have put pressure on their land owners to get more bins and some of them have even gone out and bought bins for themselves so they don’t get that R5 000.”
Cleaning up the inner city
Hawkers are not like shop owners. They do not have bins to put their rubbish in and so they create their own mess on the streets while conducting business. In order to put an end to this, Pikitup is willing to educate hawkers and provide them with dirt packets as long as the area is safe for them.
“Education is key and I think that’s where political will comes in. Pikitup is willing to go out and speak to traders and inform them and educate them as long as the counsellors come on board to actually say we will create the environment safely enough for you to come in. That’s where MMC Sun has already partnered with some businesses as well as the traders and even the Taxi Association in coming on board to start cleaning up the inner city together with Pikitup.”
Catching the big culprits
While shop owners are part of the problem, they are not the main problem. According to Imraan, the city needs to crack down on the bigger organisations and companies that illegally dump.
“It is not something small. One day the field will be empty and the next day it will be filled with all sorts of rubbish. This is dumping on a large scale. Something shop owners and ordinary people can’t do overnight.”
His views are backed up by Christians who admits there are companies who dump waste illegally. He believes this is because they don’t wish to pay the fees at the landfill sites and also do not want to incur the costs of transporting the waste.
“What we’re finding is that there’s many people, especially around the construction site, who tend to get trucks to load up and they don’t want to pay the fee to go and dump them at our loading sites where you can go. There’s a fee per kg that you got to pay. So, what they do is they wait for one or two in the morning and they choose any space where they will just go and offload it. They make the money even though the people are paying them to go and dump it legally.”
In order for illegal dumping to be put to a stop, citizens must work together with the city. With visible patrols and citizens reporting those who are illegally dumping, this act can be stopped.