Msunduzi Municipality has applied to the Chief Magistrate to review and increase the fines for pollution. Currently, admission of guilt fines for contravening municipal bylaws governing pollution range between R500 and R5 000. The municipality feels that these amounts are not a deterrent enough to curb the big problem of pollution.
Pollution is not only health hazard but a stumbling block to economic development.
Events like the Duzi Canoe Marathon, which are money-spinners for the local economy, would be affected if pollution of natural resources is not curbed, as participants would pull out in fear of contracting disease and organisers and sponsors would be wary of potential lawsuits. With high levels of ecoli and chemicals also affects food production as it becomes unsuitable for irrigation. Disruption of agricultural acitivity would be castraphic in a municipality that already has a high level of food insecurity. According to a report by Africa Food Security Urban Network(2013), as many as 60% of the households were classified as severely food insecure, with another 27% moderately food insecure.
The application for higher fines comes at a time when the Municipality is investigating the spill into Msunduzi River, which has render water from this river unsuitable for human, marine life and livestock consumption. It is reported that about 1.6 million litres of fatty oils and caustic soda poured out of Willowton Oils into the Msunduzi River. The spilled material has reached Umgeni River, which flows into the Nanda Dam. Huge numbers of dead fish and other marine life can be seen floating and along the banks of the river.
Municipal Spokesperson, Thobeka Mafumbatha said the City’s Environmental Health Unit was investigating the incident. She also said: “Both Drizit and Spilltech are still busy with clean up and containment operations along the river, and at Willowton Oil Mills premises.”
MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube said investigation has begun and appropriate action will be taken against any guilty party.
“We want to ensure that there has been compliance with the rules of the Environmental Act. We will ensure that they are adhered to. If there is any breach in terms of compliance, we will have to make sure that whoever has breached compliance will have to be fined or charged. They will have to be responsible,” she said.
Msunduzi Municipality is urging communities along the Msunduzi River not to consume water from this river and to keep livestock away from it. Water experts estimate that millions of rands will have to be spent on the clean-up.
This is not the first time that a major clean-up of Msunduzi River has had to done. In October 2018, the Department of Environmental Affairs engaged in a cleanup campaign, where 1408 kilograms of litter was collected.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs has escalated issues resulting from the Sunfoil oil spillage in the Msunduzi River to the Department of Water and Sanitation and provincial water supplier Umgeni Water.
A Task Team was formed that will monitor the clean-up progress and ensure compliance with the environmental legislation including by-laws. The Task Team consists of EDTEA, DWS, Umgeni Water, Msunduzi Municipality, Managers of the clean-up companies and Willowton representatives (legal team, directors and spokesperson).
ALERT: Contamination of Baynespruit and Duzi River
An accident has occurred at a nearby factory and this has resulted in oil and other substances spilling into the river and streams in your area. The water is contaminated and must not be used for any purpose. Cleaning up operations are in progress and we will inform you when the river (and streams) is safe.
Do not drink water from the streams
Do not use water to wash clothes and dishes
Do not water plants, crops and livestock
Do not go near the banks of the rivers and streams