Zimbabwe — The High Court has ordered the City of Harare to put in place adequate fire prevention measures at the Pomona dumpsite to avoid fire outbreaks like that of last August, which caused massive environmental damage in some suburbs of the capital.
Granting an application by the Environment Management Agency, Justice November Mtshiya said the municipality risks being charged with contempt of court if it fails to comply with the order.
The court order was granted with the consent of council, its director of waste management and EMA.
“By consent of all the parties, it is ordered that council shall put in place adequate fire prevention measures to the satisfaction of the applicant, at Pomona dumpsite within 30 days of the date of this order.
“Failing which, the respondent shall be deemed to be in contempt of court,” ruled Justice Mtshiya.
It was also ordered that in case of a fire outbreak, council must put it out within 14 days of its occurrence.
The court ruled that council should, within 10 days of service of the order, furnish EMA with a detailed waste management plan pertaining to the Pomona dumpsite and a report containing the environmental damage caused by the fires of last year.
According to the founding affidavit deposed by the director of EMA, Mr Sibekile Mtetwa, the application was prompted by a disastrous fire outbreak in August last year that was not put out for a prolonged period.
He said the fires emitted a thick smoke which heavily polluted the atmosphere and surrounding environment.
A report compiled by EMA showed that the emission of fumes from the fire extended to areas as far as Glendale and made driving difficult in suburbs like Marlborough, Westgate, Vainona, Warren Park and Mabelreign.
It was stated that Harare City Council had previously been fined by EMA for failing to take substantive measures to control the fires at Pomona.
Mr Mtetwa further submitted that the matter was urgent as the dry season, termed the “fire season”, was approaching.
“In Zimbabwe, the dry season is always accompanied by rampant veld fires and wildfires, which thrive in the dry and windy conditions.
“The fire season has been officially marked as beginning in July 2008. Emissions from Pomona dumpsite release gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and hydrocarbons, which cause global warming, ozone depletion and climatic changes. They also pose immediate dangers to human health and bio-diversity and cause overwhelming atmospheric pollution,” he said.
A quarry operator, who wanted to burn grass around his quarry, is believed to have started the fire in August last year but failed to contain it.
Due to composition of materials being dumped at the site, the fire became unmanageable to the extent that fire tenders could not put it out.
It is alleged the quarry operator was angry with people he suspected of stealing diesel from his premises so he burnt the grass around the dumpsite where he suspected the thieves were hiding before striking.
The fire raged on for more than a month until environmental stakeholders collectively put it out.