The head and tail of Welamlambo stream pollution.
Fifteen metres away from the Tembisa South Police Station and five metres away from the Phola park lies the Welamlambo stream located in Vusimuzi Section, Tembisa. Human impact and natural causes have altered the stream, negatively affecting ecosystems as well as the stream flow.
Illegal dumping has become an ongoing issue in most communities. The community of Vusimuzi has repeatedly dumped their waste in the Welamlambo stream. Some other dumping sites are an eyesore, along the stream banks resulting in land pollution. The goats and the chickens feed on the dumps as well imbibe from the stream which is a health hazard. Some are exposed to bioaccumulation of toxic substances in their system and some consequently die as a result of ingesting contaminated food and water. Thus, owners lose profit, thereby affecting their finances. The waste eventually lands into the stream due to surface run-off.
The toxic substances and non-biodegradable materials from the garbage contaminate the water, ultimately polluting the stream and receiving water sources. Landfill sites emit methane: a greenhouse gas which plays a vital role in the greenhouse effect. This leads to climate change, characterised by global warming, drought and floods.
The endless sewage runoff from the households nearby to the stream also contaminate the water. Consequently, the stream possesses a bad odour. Children playing in the nearby recreational park are then left vulnerable. They swim in the stream because no public pools are available in the neighbourhood. “I was so frustrated when my child swam on that polluted stream, his health was at risk. The water may contain pathogenic bacteria which exposes my child cholera or diarrhoea”, stormed 24-year-old Thandeka, a parent. Many traditional practises are being carried out in the stream. People cleanse themselves in the stream with the belief that bad luck shall not prevail in their lives. Their health is threatened due to the use of contaminated water from the stream.
In addition, soil degradation is evident along the stream banks. This inhibits the stability and wellness of the stream. Residents source “river sand”, as they would call it, from the stream, which they use for construction purposes such as building rooms for renting purposes. The top soil would be washed away during floods, this depletes the soil nutrients and increases soil erosion. The loose soil gets deposited into the stream resulting in siltation. The normal stream flow is affected, ultimately stagnant water invites the scourge of mosquitoes to not only to inhibit the stream and reproduce but spread malaria as well. This poses a serious health risk to the residents.
The residents withhold the idea that the City of Ekurhuleni does not cater for them after experiencing floods back in 2016 as reported in the Tembisan (2018). The case between human impact by residents and service delivery by the municipality is highlighted. “I was not aware of the issue, however, as the municipality we will find a way to mitigate the pollution of water in the stream. We are planning to educate the residents on solid waste disposal. We’ll find a way of buffering the area around the park so that children will not have easy access to the stream”, said Luthando Lugayeni, who is in charge of the waste management in Vusimuzi area.
Implementing a legislation on illegal dumping will reduce the problems emanating from water pollution. Using fines as a punishment will ensure that residents do not illegally dump their waste. The fines can then be used to improve service delivery such a waste removal and maintenance of the sewer system. Education and awareness on soil degradation and erosion is beneficial as it gives the residents the insights on the consequences of soil degradation and erosion along the stream. Thus with improved knowledge, the residents will be able to sustain the proper functioning of ecosystems.
The consequences of stream pollution bring about a setback in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, 2030). Namely, Goal 3 of good health and well-being, Goal 6 of clean water and sanitation, Goal 13 of climate action, Goal 14 of life on water and Goal 15 of life on land.
Ziphezinhle Langa : March 2019