Irked villagers raise stink

2016-08-15 10:08
Informal settlements being built.

Informal settlements being built. (Khaya Magenu )

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An informal settlement at the heart of Nottingham Road village has alarmed residents, with tons of raw waste posing a major health and safety risk.

Broken glass, used condoms and old food cover the banks of the settlement, overlooking the R103, while dirty nappies and piles of human excrement in plastic packets adorn the trees lining the road.

A stench rises from the raw waste and rotting food on the banks, a few hundred metres away from the local Spar. Directly in front of the settlement stand the town’s bank, a hardware store and an automobile spare parts store.

Nottingham Road Land Owners Association members met with The Witness last week to discuss the challenges facing the settlement and the village.

Chairperson Clive Foss said the settlement popped up in 2005, but had expanded exponentially since then. Foss said the Gowries development and construction of the Spring Grove Dam offered employment opportunities, and that was when the settlement “exploded”.

“The informal settlement is on Transnet land, is completely under-serviced and has become a huge health and safety concern,” he said.

The association said it had been trying to engage with the uMngeni Municipality to clean up the waste for several months, but their requests had fallen “on deaf ears”.

“Thankfully it cannot grow much further because it is enclosed on Transnet’s property, but there are around 80 shacks on that land,” said Foss. The settlement has sprung right next to the railway tracks of the main line running from Durban to Johannesburg, with Foss saying that rubbish and excrement were often dumped onto the lines.

Natasha Strong, a member of the association and founder of non-profit organisation Nottingham Road Refreshed, said settlement residents threw waste and excrement over the walls of the settlement, creating a mountain of rubbish on the embankment of the R103. “Municipal employees refuse to clean those banks because of how toxic the rubbish is,” she said.

Nottingham Road DA PR councillor Moira Grueneberg said the settlement’s residents had started throwing their waste over the fencing in protest against the lack of services.

Strong said the association had conducted a census four years ago, showing that 250 people lived in the settlement then. She said, however, an estimated 100 more people had moved into the settlement since the census.

The association said the settlement was detrimental to tourism and economic growth in Nottingham Road.

Strong said several residents of the settlement had been knocked down by trains, with one death as recently as two weeks ago.

She added police were often called into the settlement because of fights.

Strong said her organisation was started five years ago due to concerns surrounding the state of the village.

“We started upgrading gardens in certain areas from lump sum donations, and then we employed one woman to pick up litter around the settlement and the village three times a week.”

Strong said they had hired a man to brushcut grass during the summer, because the municipality maintained the areas “so sporadically”.

She said the organisation had tried to liaise with the municipality and had taken most of the responsibility of maintaining the village, and was purely funded by the community.

uMngeni municipal spokesperson Thando Mgaga said the municipality was aware of the “challenges in the informal settlement”.

“We have met with Transnet over the transfer of the site, as well as additional land for the purposes of formalising the area.

“We are collecting rubbish on a weekly basis and clearing human waste regularly, using our own staff. We are not aware of municipal workers refusing to clean.”

He said a request for a toxic waste management service had been received and was being processed, but a company had not been appointed yet.

“The manager for waste management has been engaging with the ward councillor and other stakeholders on a regular basis about challenges and solutions,” said Mgaga.

“The solution is complex and requires input from various provincial and national government departments.”

He said the municipality was trying to provide residents with alternative accommodation at the Hillside housing development project. Mgaga added that the municipality was not aware of the Nottingham Road Refreshed group.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  litter

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