Dodoma — IT was once a lifeline of people around. But now, one of the mighty river in Tanzania commercial capital, which source its flows from Mbezi Luis and Kinyerezi suburbs, is now one of the most polluted rivers because of rampant dumping of industrial and human waste. Msimbazi River has as high as 12 pH levels or 4 more pollutants as per State level, mandated for a safe river.
The river has turned into a potential source of severe burns to skin, according to a water resource management watchdog group of organisations. Uhakika wa Maji Programme, a joint initiative between Shahidi wa Maji, a national network of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector (TaWaSaNET) and the global Water Witness International has finally released data after years of sampling of rivers in the country.
The new study shows, Msimbazi River chemical compound- Chromium VI is at 75 times the legal limit. Chromium is very toxic, and public health experts say long-term exposure can cause cancer and birth defects. Neither Muhimbili National Hospital, Amana, Mwananyamala nor Temeke Hospital in the city had scientifically confirmed having diagnosed victims but cases of cancer and birth defects are increasingly reported at the hospitals.
Residents near this river are in the dark about the water pollution crisis. For years, they have been using the river's water to irrigate their vegetable gardens posing dire implications for the health of impoverished communities and their livelihoods. "It's hard to argue that vegetable farming must take a fair share of blame for pollution into rivers," says, Aziz Ally, a vegetable grower in Kivule.
But he claims illegal mining activities, and dumping of refuse in the rivers should carry the blame. "Dar es Salaam's main river, the Msimbazi and its many tributaries are horrendously polluted and impose daily health risks for at least quarter of a million citizens," read part of a report titled "Pollution and Floods Impacts, Dar es Salaam Case Study."
Uhakika wa Maji Country Programme Manager Ms Jane Joseph says the city's river, serves as an open sewer carrying a toxic mixture of industrial effluent, chemicals, abattoir waste and human sewage. Her observation was recent echoed by Vice-President Ms Samia Suluhu Hassan. The VP says; "Much of the Msimbazi is now gone, having fallen to ever insatiable land grabbers and industries dumping untreated effluents into the river.
" "Even rowing across the river is now difficult for it smells so badly. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to help address this problem," she told residents where giant canals are being built to prevent floods. Since 2005, communities around the river had been reporting to government authorities including the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) on increasing levels of pollution.
The Water Policy and Water Resources Management Act 2009 clearly establish water pollution as a serious offence and provide significant powers to the Wami Ruvu Basin Water Board to take action. However, No single person had been arraigned in the court of law charged with polluting the river 17-years since the Wami Ruvu Basin was established in 2001.
The plight of the Msimbazi symbolizes the general state of many rivers in Tanzania, a large flat land criss-crossed by hundreds of rivers which faces an uphill battle to keep them navigable and their waters safe for human and aquatic lives. Uhakika wa Maji Programme listed other challenged rivers as the Yaeda River in Mbulu, Ngerengere River in Morogoro, Mkindo River Catchment in Nguru mountains, Mgeta River in Morogoro and the Kilombero Valley. Tanzania has about 140 small and large rivers, and a large chunk of the country's 55 million people depend on them for a living and for transportation.
While the government through the Ministry responsible for Union and Environment affairs in the Office of the Vice- President had instructed responsible authorities to examine the water quality of all the rivers in the commercial capital, a report by Uhakika wa Maji says "NIDA Textiles Ltd industrial discharge carries very high levels of heavy metals and pH.
" Among the top polluters are dozens of tanneries on the banks of the River. The government hasn't initiated any move to relocate the tanneries outside the capital, but asked illegal encroachers to vacate the river. Pollution is also caused by sewer drainage from dwellings and dumping of commercial and household waste. Environmentalists say the Msimbazi river, once famous for a spectacular cruise, clean water and fishing is worst affected. The river flows by the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, a city of over 5.3 million people, and draining in the Indian Ocean.
It was largely a source of livelihood to residents who depends on the river water for drinking, fishing and farming. European Medicine Agency (EMA) and the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) they too painted the water in the Msimbazi river as dangerous to health, and unfit for domestic and agricultural use. Chairperson of the Parliamentary Watchdog Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Water Dr Mary Nagu point out that existence of the problem has been fueled by inadequate budget allocated by water utilities and the NEMC to conduct inspections as well as build a wastewater treatment plant.
The water resources expert acknowledged that state authorities need sufficient funding to manage urban environments and reduce harm posed by industrial waste. "With a booming industrial sector, regulatory agencies needs to be ready to take control of water pollution crisis. They will need money and technology, but more, the commitment to strongly regulate industries," she said.
Ms Joseph told reporters in Dar es Salaam, the alliance of water resource management watchdog group calls for a new political commitment, investment and leadership to prevent pollution and flooding.
Struggling with the old and dilapidated existing infrastructure, the city can only handle 10 percent of waste water generated everyday. Even though, the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (DAWASA) announced a 600m US dollars (about 1.320trl/-) plan late last year to boost the city's capacity of treating sewage from 10 percent to 30 percent by 2020.
A freshwater ecologist from the University of Dar es Salaam Paul Onyango who support the new drive, says "all people have a part to play. We spend lots of time of assigning blame and not enough time solving problems, so we need to focus more on how can we do these things better," he said.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) official figures shows Dar es Salaam is home to over 5.3 million people, the number having jumped from 4.3 million in the 2012 census.
In this case, efforts are required to be taken now to protect the ever increasing population which at country level is projected to grow at an average of 3.1 percent annually. "There will be more need for water and land in the next ten years than it is today.
The population will have increased steadily, there will be pollution and climate change... this means we need a corrective approach to ensure a sustainable livelihood in the future," adds Mr Herbert Kashililah, Chair of Water Witness Tanzania