PREMIER Sihle Zikalala wants a permanent solution to Msunduzi’s landfill site “where a smog from the burning dumpsite has polluted the entire area and is posing a health risk to the residents”.
However, the DA believes it is time the New England Road landfill site is declared a disaster so that it can be shut down and rehabilitated.
Zikalala was speaking during his weekly Covid-19 briefing in Durban.
“In this period when we are dealing with a crisis like Covid-19, we do not want our people to get sick and occupy hospital beds due avoidable causes of illness. This is a matter we are attending with a deep sense of urgency. We believe that the time has come for its permanent resolution,” he said.
He said the provincial government had assigned the departments of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, under MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube, as well as Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs under MEC Sipho Hlomuka, and Finance MEC Ravi Pillay, to work on this crisis with the municipality.
Zikalala said this should include assessing the capacity of the municipality to cope with its waste management functions, and if need be, exploring options, including whether this function cannot be assumed by another layer of government and be handed over when it is resolved, as contemplated in Section 139 (1)(b) of the Constitution.
“There is an urgent need to find a longer-term solution to this challenge, using the resources available within the municipality. The lives of our people are a priority and as government, we hear their voices. We will receive a report from these departments as a matter of priority.”
Meanwhile, DA MP Hannah Winkler has written to the Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy calling for her urgent intervention in Msunduzi and to declare the dump a disaster site as per the Disaster Management Act.
“This fire outbreak is the most severe to date although there have been numerous on the landfill site over the years causing severe distress to residents due to heavy air pollution. The DA has repeatedly called on Msunduzi Municipality for competent management of the landfill site,” she said of the blaze that started last week.
Winkler said according to waste experts, the landfill site has been left to deteriorate past the point of no return and urgently needs to be shut down and rehabilitated. This however, she said, required suitable land to be identified and is a protracted process.
“The DA recognises that shutting down the landfill site is required, and we will push for this to be resolved as quickly as possible; however, in the short term, adequate management and compliance of the New England Road landfill site is a priority.”
She said Creecy’s intervention was more critical at the moment as Pietermaritzburg has been declared as a Covid-19 hotspot. “Should the minister not intervene swiftly, the DA will interdict Msunduzi ... residents of Msunduzi have had enough,” said Winkler.