Dumpsite move a blow to poor

The Okahandja dumpsite is a source of income, food and other goods for some of the town's poorest residents.

23 October 2020 | Local News



Plans to decommission Okahandja's current rubbish dump are being met with mixed feelings by those who have grown dependent on the waste that provides income and food.

The Okahandja municipality confirmed that plans are underway to move the five-hectare dumpsite near the Ekunde Extension 5 informal settlement to a new spot for health and safety reasons.

“The dumpsite not only poses a health hazard to the residents but has become a nuisance, especially when those who have settled themselves at the site set waste on fire,” a notice by the municipality dated late September informed residents.

The municipality said provisional plans are to build a new, fenced-in dumpsite in the eastern part of the town, and residents have proposed that the site be professionally managed as opposed to the current situation. The current 40-year-old dumpsite is situated adjacent to an informal settlement that is home to hundreds of families living in shacks amidst serious pollution.

Yet it has become a reliable source of income, food and other goods to some of the poorest at the town who visit to scavenge the site daily.

'Where will we go?'

Mona-Lisa Eises (23), a single mother of four, said the dumpsite has been the only source of income, and often food, for her and her children.

“I've come here for 20 years. I come here at around 07:00 every morning. We 'zula' here. We look for food or 'blikkies' every day, Monday to Friday, for something we can sell as scrap or take as food.”

She said she is worried that the new dumpsite will not be accessible to her and others who make a living from the waste of other Okahandja residents. “People are saying they will move this dump and close it. Where will we go? Will people help us with food and water? We all come here to 'zula', where will we go then?”

Eises said although her now deceased mother wanted her to go to school, she dropped out early as a result of chronic hunger and poverty. “I came here to 'zula' instead.”

Good news for some

A resident of the nearby informal settlement, who was at the dump this week to collect firewood, said the decommissioning of the site is good news for residents concerned about waste, air and water pollution. “When things are burnt here, the smoke gets into our homes, the water is dirty and the smell is terrible. It's very, very unhealthy for my kids. So, in a way, it will be good when they move the dump, to prevent pollution and plastics being blown into our yards,” Martha Garoes said.

She, however, added that she's worried about the fate of those who depend on the dump. “What will happen to them? The government says there is no money, so how will they live their lives? They depend on this dump; this is how they make a living. If this is taken away, what then?”

'Not sure what I'll do'

Another resident from Okahandja said he has recycled glass, plastic and other items scavenged at the dumpsite for the past five years.

“From the money I make here, I look after my family. I am not sure what I will do when they close this dump,” Joshua Simon said. The dump is a good resource for materials such as copper, aluminium, glass, papers and plastic that can be collected, sorted and then sold as scrap or recyclables, he said.

The collectors of the scrap material said they can make between N$10 and N$50 a day. Simon said the ideal solution would be for the municipality to ensure that he can continue to recycle waste at the new dump.

“If they close the dump, I don't know what I will do. Maybe if they can allow us to still go there, and allow us to collect and sell materials, that will be good. To give us jobs. If not, we will go hungry.”

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