24 December 2012

Tanzania: Dangerous Effluents Must Be Controlled

THE government's move to close down the operations of Double Tree Hotel and Giraffe Ocean View Hotel until it is satisfied that the two tourist hotels do not discharge any sewage or other effluents into the Indian Ocean is laudable.

The move has prompted the hotels to clean their surroundings and ensure that they no longer pollute the environment. But the crusade should not end here. Apart from hotels, other establishments such as factories, hospitals and mines should be inspected.

This should be a countrywide exercise. Last year it was reported in our edition of the "Sunday News" that factories at Kihonda in Morogoro Municipality were discharging highly dangerous effluents into nearby rivers endangering lives. The rivers were the source of drinking water for hundreds of residents. The factories, we were told, included Morogoro Canvas; the Twenty-first Century Textiles and Morogoro Tanneries.

The problem was fixed when the government intervened. In fact, the problem at Double Tree and Giraffe Ocean View is a tip of the iceberg. Most factories spill their highly toxic effluents into residential areas causing a fearsome health risk. Mineral mines are equally notorious environmental polluters. But industrial effluents are not the only health hazards in cities and municipalities.

Some of the most dangerous wastes emanate from hospitals, ports, garages and even homes. Some of these hazards are in the form of solid waste and are found in open-pit dumpsites. So, while some devil-may-care industrial and mining executives pollute rivers with toxic effluents, urban administrators dump equally dangerous wastes in dumpsites where scavengers and children swarm looking for sellable objects or food.

Perhaps the most dangerous garbage comes from hospitals, health centres, pharmacies and dispensaries. Normally hospital refuse must be incinerated under close supervision. But somehow, some of the waste finds its way into the communal dumpsites. The items commonly found in hospital refuse include bottles, used syringes, various types of needles and blades, cotton swabs or absorbent pads used in surgery, empty medicine containers and used bandages.

Most of these items are health hazards. Highly dangerous waste also comes from factories in the form of garbage laced with toxic chemicals, acids and poisons. Industrial effluents often flow into dumpsites. Barefoot scavengers or those wearing sandals risk of treading on corrosive matter.

Scavengers carry out their tasks in a highly unhealthy and dangerous environment where they are exposed to infectious diseases, including hepatitis A and B, tetanus, coliform and even HIV/AIDS. The state should correct this anomaly as well. If all garbage heaps were incinerated thoroughly at the time of dumping, no one would have gone there to rummage through the ash. Factories and hospitals should have special incinerators or waste treatment plants to deal with dangerous effluents and solid waste.

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