10 February 2013

Tanzania: Pugu Garbage Dump Site Poses Serious Health Hazard

THE dump site located about 35km from the City centre is facing similar problems that few years ago prompted the City Council Authorities to shift it to Pugu Kinyamwezi, from the other locations.

The site was initially at Mtoni area and later moved to Kigogo area. According to residents of the area, the garbage dump site poses a serious threat and is a time bomb to the public health with emissions and condemned food stuff that is dumped in the area.

"Some of the food which is brought in the site is again recycled due to lack of controls as the existing staff posted in the area are overwhelmed by the size of the dump," said a source working in the site. The dump which measures 178 acres has no proper infrastructure and no fencing is erected around the area, which allows some scavengers to enter and exit the site without the authority's' control.

Residents who spoke to the 'Sunday News' in Dar es Salaam this week claim that some condemned food dumped at the site finds its way back to the market. There were also claims that rice which is declared not fit for human consumption disposed at the site is cleaned and recycled.

Some unsubstantiated reports allege that such rice is used by local traders to bake pancakes known as vitumbua and sold in by food vendors. A weeklong survey by the Sunday Newspaper has also established that the infrastructure hampers the smooth movement of vehicles which enter the site to dump the garbage.

When this reporter visited the site last week he saw smoke emissions from the dump which residents have always said it was a health hazard. The smoke is due to lack of facilities that can bring sand to put off the fire that emerges after the garbage has decomposed.

The decomposition produces gases that are combustible which have to be controlled. There are only 20 people including a police officer who are manning the dump, which given its size makes it impossible to supervise and control dangerous waste such as drugs and foodstuff that is not fit for human consumption dumped at the site.

When contacted to comment on the challenges facing the Council to deal with the threats, the City Council Waste Management official, Mr Protus Membe, told the 'Sunday News' that it was not true that the disposed food was recycled in the market. However, he said that the only waste which was recycled was useable waste such as steel, plastic and bones that has created a lucrative business for many.

There are over 400 people who have gained employment at the site, says one of the staff deployed, who added that an individual can make up to 40,000/- a day through sifting the garbage and extracting useful waste. "Such waste is sold to the local factories which then reprocess them into useable products," he said. He also admitted that the site was too big and the number of staff operating the site requires to be beefed up.

"We need a compactor machine and at least four lorries to bring the sand in the site everyday," he said. He explained that the compactor is deployed to compress the garbage and a heap of sand of between 3-6 inches is placed on top of the compressed garbage to end the fire.

But he was quick to say that the road construction in the site was in final stages and the construction has already started. On the fencing of the site, he said that the drawings are ready and its construction will begin next year, he said. An official from Tanzania Food and Drug Authority (TFDA) told this paper that food disposal was done in collaboration with the City Council.

"Those intending to dispose of expired food send application to the City Council which refers the matter to our office, which in due course our officials oversee the whole exercise," he said. Medical Supplies Department official who is not a spokesperson said that all drugs were disposed of through a laid down procedure which involves the experts from the department.

Both food and drugs when disposed of are dumped in a big ditch that is excavated in the site and buried to ensure no one can extract the waste, said a site supervisor at the dump. Some people who have been making fortune at the site said that the waste once sifted there are many useful things that can generate income. "For example wires, steel items, bones and plastics as well as other form of papers can still be recycled and give one a generous income," said Yahya Sahibi at the site.

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