In the half hour that Kristin Kallesen stood on the degraded Diepsloot wetland last week, she witnessed three trucks illegally dumping building rubble from a nearby construction site onto the wetland, choked with debris and garbage.

“It’s shocking, isn’t it,” remarked Kallesen, the chairperson of the Greater Kyalami Conservancy (Gecko), pointing to the wetland, virtually encased in building rubble.

“It’s so many trucks that come here, day in and day out, from the northern suburbs to dump in Diepsloot,” explained local resident, Bernard Mulauzi, standing alongside her.

“And no one stops them. What they’re doing is completely illegal as no one is allowed to dump here.”

“This has been going on for time immemorial – and it’s unstoppable,” added Lucky Manyisi, the chairperson of the community co-operative organisation, Wassup, or Water, Amenities, Sanitation Services Upgrading programme, in extension 1 Diepsloot.

“We, the people of Diepsloot, feel forsaken.”

Below the embankment of waste, the strangled wetland ran a toxic bright-green, and then a foul, grey, clogged with rubbish and raw sewage.

“This area is plagued by sewage from burst pipes, inadequate sanitation facilities and now an illegal dump of immense proportions,” explained Kallesen.

“Rubble from household and large-scale construction projects across the northern suburbs ends up here – filling in the wetland and posing a danger to residents in Diepsloot. This is the same wetland in Diepsloot where children have drowned when flooding occurs.”

Out on the Kaalspruit in Ivory Park, Willem Snyman this week saw the same mess unfolding: a succession of rubble trucks dumping in the wetland that is the headwaters of the polluted Hennops River, while he was conducting a river restoration and clean-up campaign.

“The wetland is being systematically filled in with building rubble, levelled, and shacks erected in a widespread grab and destruction of the Kaalfontein Spruit at the headwaters of the Hennops. It’s hundreds of thousands of tons of rubble, and it’s unbelievable,” said Snyman, a river ranger for Action for Responsible Management of Our Rivers (Armour).

After a long discussion with one of the self-appointed developers, selling stands, on the filled-in wetland, the trucks were finally halted. “People who are sold these stands inside the river-course and build on rubble inside the high-water line are in grave danger when the river floods. Shacks are also built on pipelines and their servitudes.”

He said that a joint project by the City of Johannesburg, Joburg Water and the Department of Water and Sanitation would be undertaken to remove the houses and the rubble dumped on the river banks.

Kallesen explained that the scale of illegal dumping was staggering in Joburg and “evident on vacant land throughout the city. Prosecution is needed with regards to the illegal dumping of rubble”.

Nico de Jager, Joburg’s MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services, termed illegal dumping “one of the evils of our society”.

“What’s happening in Diepsloot, with these illegal dumps, is absolutely horrific as it’s been allowed to continue for many years. It’s extremely dangerous. We don’t know what is being dumped there. It could cause fires and explosions. Then there’s all that black poison from all the rubbish that has been allowed to fester there.

“It’s happening everywhere in the city, and it’s inexcusable. In Diepsloot, often the big developers will make use of small contractors to remove the building rubble and turn a blind eye to this dumping. They won’t dump in Bryanston or in front of my house because they know I will call the JMPD, but they dump in Diepsloot, where people don’t have a voice or where people are being abused and bribed.”

He wanted to introduce a deposit system to tackle the illegal dumping of rubble. “When developers apply for permits, we should introduce a system to make them pay a hectic deposit. And they will only get it back once they produce a set of invoices to show they have dumped their rubble in legitimate places.

“That’s the only way forward. We’ve put up the most elaborate buildings in the city, but we can’t bend the rules for these developers for where they dump their waste.”

The City of Johannesburg has stated that it costs the city around R170 million a year to clean up street littering and illegal dump sites.

Pikitup spokesperson Muzi Mkhwanazi said illegal dumping constituted an average of 284 659 tonnages per year in the city.

“It presents in many forms and at varying degrees per area. However, builders’ rubble constitute significant tonnages of illegal dumping waste composition.”

Residents (domestic waste), “bakkie brigates and big tippers operators” were the worst offenders, he said.

The utility stated previously it had procured “builder’s rubble crusher” plants as builder’s rubble constituted most of the illegally dumped waste.

Ivan Parkes, the chairperson of the Thorntree Conservancy and the chair of the Gauteng Conservancy and Stewardship Association, said illegal dumping remained an “immense problem that we find especially in our conservancies in urban and rural areas”.

Back in Diepsloot, Mulauzi said: “With all this rubble coming into Diepsloot, it’s easy to stop it, but the by-laws are not applied in our area. Each and every truck that’s coming in is paying someone off and that’s why this goes on and on.”

By sheree bega

Oct 30, 2018

Saturday Star