A number of industries operating in Harare’s major industrial sites are causing massive pollution in the river and water sources around the city, a new report has shown.
BY STEPHEN TSOROTI
A report by the City of Harare in conjunction with the Environment Management Agency (EMA) said over 200 companies in Harare’s major industrial sites have been found dumping excessive pollutants in rivers that supply the city with the precious liquid.
The report that was produced after an inspectorate blitz found that most industries had no pre-treatment plants at their sites and were draining their toxic products, poisons, non-biodegradable substances and organic matter into the environment.
The main contaminants were sulphuric acid, caustic soda, ammonium salts, phosphates and sulphates and other organic substances.
Pulp and paper mills, and breweries were among the worst industrial polluters, as well as textile factories. Production of pulp and paper requires large quantities of water, so a large volume of liquid waste is produced.
City of Harare chief environmental technician Chad Mabika said the operation covered 520 companies. Two-hundred industries were ticketed and 394 orders served for both the agency and the city council.
Graniteside, Workington, Willowvale, Southerton and Lochinvar were inspected during the operation.
Samples were also collected for trace metal levels and full chemical analyses for working without proper pre-treatment plants that process effluent before its disposal either into the environment or the sewer system.
Mabika said it was evident that pollution percentages of sampled industries were beyond the permissible levels of discharging waste effluent.
“Industries that were inspected in Harare generate a lot of effluent that comprises farce metals, solvents, oil and grease. Thus a lot of hazardous substances are being generated in Harare,” said Mabika.
Shiraaz Kassam, chairman of Lake Chivero Users Association described the problems of pollution in the city and Lake Chivero environs as very serious.
He said the problem was compounded by the fact that Crowborough Sewage Treatment Works were non-functional prompting council to discharge raw sewage into the Marimba River.
“Pollution of any kind must be prevented as this poses a serious health hazard to the city’s inhabitants and marine life,” Kassam said.
Meanwhile, industrialists say complying with orders from the City of Harare and EMA had a lot of capital implications, considering the economic situation. The industries submitted that the infrastructure required for members to comply was expensive.
For instance, an oil separator for kitchens/canteens costs US$10 000. Effluent plants need capital outlay of up to US$5 million so that the processed effluent can be treated to acceptable standards.
“The cluster members cannot easily access these levels of investments given that our economy is generally not performing well and the cluster members are not spared,” said Tapera Mawodza, chairman of the food and beverages manufacturers cluster.
Mawodza says the city council should also put its house in order.
“We have seen raw sewage being pumped into rivers and we witnessed discharges in several areas in Chitungwiza and City of Harare, the authorities appear not to be implementing the same steps that they are forcing the private sector to pursue.”
According to Mawodza, a number of cluster members actually have international systems standards such as ISO 14001 for environmental management system, ISO 9001 Quality Management System and these have helped on issues around waste management.
Mawodza added that Consumer Social Responsibility (CSR) was actually embedded in the programmes. Members like Delta, Dairibord and Colcom have robust CSR programmes and yearly they put aside sizeable amounts in the form of CSR budgets.
“The cluster does not think we are going to notice an improvement soon because traction is only coming from a few members. If you look at the food and beverages sector, there is a potential for having more than 1 000 members in Harare alone, yet we are only 15 members who are committed and are working towards complying to the requirements,” Mawodza said.
“What difference does it make when only 2% are complying and the other 98% are not?”
According to the report generated during the operation, on average 70% of samples collected for analysis in the Granisteside industrial area indicated that most of the companies inspected were not compliant.
On the other hand, major polluting companies were said to be beverages and chrome extracting companies. The latter uses chemicals such as sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, ferrous sulphate and caustic soda. The companies were said to generate hazardous waste of which 20 tonnes were available with the possibility of escaping into the environment and causing pollution.
Tobacco processors were also said to be dumping their waste at undesignated sites.
The 227-page report recommended that, companies that discharge any effluent into the environment should have pre-treatment plants and measures be formulated for the hotspot at Graniteside where untreated effluent is being discharged into the environment or sewer system.
The report recommends another operation to cover areas that comprise Bluff hill, Msasa, Willowvale and the central business district.
The City of Harare over the years has been using at least 16 chemicals to clean-up water at its primary water source, Lake Chivero. High concentration of toxins in Lake Chivero has raised concern over the health and safety of people who are drinking the water.