Nasolo River Can’t Breathe
It is a Thursday morning, around 10 O’clock, and I have met this woman, Agness Mzumara. She is washing in a plastic bottle and waste infested Nasolo river in Ndirande township.
Ndirande is a well-known economic hub township in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial city. It boasts to be a one-stop township where one can find anything.
Ndirande market was blessed with Nasolo river that used to provide water for the people plying their trade therein, just like Euphrates was to Eden. But not anymore. The river is now a source of stinking smell orchestrated by waste dumped in it.
“It is not an option to be washing here. This is too bad for us. As you can see, the water is just very bad and the smell is not good at all. People just dump waste and plastic bottles here and the river is not as it used to be in the past when it provided us with good water,” said Mzumara.
The river which passed through the market ceased to be a source of good water as it was turned into a dump site with the growing of business activities in the market.
Some of the drainage system from the market end up spilling the waste into the river.
Plastic bottles and waster keep hovering over the water, giving the river no space to breathe. The river can’t breathe any more. It can’t flow any more.
“This whole area is engulfed in bad smell. We can’t even enjoy our meals during the day because of flies that found the river as their dwelling place because of the stinky smell.
“This exposes us to risk of getting water borne and un-hygiene related diseases,” lamented Mzumara.
No aquatic life can be found in Nasolo river because the river itself has no life. Everything is dumped in it; even animal blood from the butcheries is dumped into the river.
As if poor waste management is not enough, the growing population has forced people to build along the river banks. Human activities along the river banks have even made life of the river more miserable.
“They have constructed shallow latrines along the river banks. Their closest dump site is the river. This is not good looking at all,” said Mzumara.
Chairperson of Ndirande market, Chauncy Widon, says the growing population is bringing hygiene challenges in the area and the market too.
“Since we are many, we are also generating more waste which brings hygiene challenges. As a result, people are at risk of various diseases emanating from poor hygiene.
“It also portrays a bad image on our part as if we are not united in taking care of our business environment,” he said.
Environmental activists have decried sad reality about Nasolo river, saying it is a result of poor waste management which has characterized the city as a whole.
The township was also blessed with a hill that added beauty with its flora and fauna. The beauty is no more. Humans have sieged the hill and left it bare. Baldness is the current sight of the hill.
People have settled on the hill and their activities contribute to soil erosion. Flooding water during rainy season washes away waste down the hill into Nasolo river, making its state even more sorrowful.
This also makes people living downstream to live more dangerously as they are at risk of floods which are rampant in Malawi as a result of harsh effects of climate change.
Sustainable Development Initiative Executive Director, Maynard Nyirenda, says Blantyre city is generating 450 tons of waste a day.
He says “this is a big problem in waste management in the country that requires mindset change to address it.
“There is a lot of problems in Ndirande. Nasolo river is full of plastics. We also have a problem with drainage system in the market. There is a need for mindset change for the people to realize that it is their responsibility to take care of the environment.”
Nyirenda says activities that are polluting the environment in Ndirande have serious impacts on climate.
“Pollution has a big impact on climate change. We talk of issues relating to soil and water contamination. All that brings into environmental degradation,” he said.
Section 13(d) of the Constitution which deals with Principles of National Policy, provides for a framework for environment and natural resources management.
It states that “the State shall actively promote the welfare and development of the people of Malawi by progressively adopting and implementing policies and legislation aimed at managing the environment responsibly”
The provision provides for establishment of policies that prevent the degradation of the environment, provide a healthy living and working environment for the people of Malawi and accord full recognition to the rights of future generations by means of environmental protection and the sustainable development of natural resources, among others.
The National Waste Management Strategy is one of the tools established to contribute to the practical realization of the aspirations of the constitution.
Natural resources minister, Nancy Tembo, says the Strategy is good move in ensuring that waste is properly managed to save the environment.
“We need to recycle, reuse and reduce. We should not all depend on cities and government but we can all come together and manage waste well,” she said.