Residents’ health compromised by tyre furnace

Playing hide-and-seek with the residents of Highfields and officials from the Environmental Management Authority has become a daily routine for unemployed youths making a living out of burning tyres.

One of the residents residing near the tyre furnace, Patience Hapagutwi.
One of the residents residing near the tyre furnace, Patience Hapagutwi.

They collect used tyres from companies operating in Willowvale industrial site, adjacent to Highfields, which they burn to retrieve the soft wires that remain as residue. The wires are sold for making chicken run fences and various others wares.

Residents in the area say their health is being compromised by the filthy smoke that emanates from the burning of tyres. Efforts to stop the youths have proved futile.

Emaculate Chifodya said residents were breathing heavily contaminated air. She said: “They bring their tyres at this place that they have named the tyre furnace and burn them f at night. Sometimes, we have to fight for clean air after the whole house is engulfed by the thick, black smoke emanating from the burning tyres.

“We rely on fans for air at night because we cannot open our windows or doors for fear of being attacked by thieves. Power cuts worsen our plight because sometimes there is no electricity,” said Chifodya.

Another resident said the burning process takes at least two days due to the big quantities of the tyres that are burnt at a time.

Adrian Nyahunga said: “The heat that comes from that process is so much that even our vegetable gardens have dried up. Our fear is that one day the fire is going to burn down our houses.”

Another resident recuperating from tuberculosis attributed her predicament to the ‘dirty smoke’ that she was being forced to inhale daily from the tyres.

Patience Hapagutwi said: “It took me months to be diagnosed with tuberculosis. I was in and out of hospital but they could not establish my disease. A year later after my health had deteriorated drastically was when they found out that I had tuberculosis.” She now lives in feared of a recurrence of the condition

Several other residents expressed bitterness at the youths’ activities, arguing that the police should intervene as the activity had the potential to destroy their houses.

“We are now scared that our houses are going to be burnt down by these fires and our efforts to stop this practice is not bearing fruit because these youths keep coming back here,” said Evans Dhambuza.

Research conducted by the Blacksmith Institute revealed that environmental health risks are highest in regions housing the world’s poor.

The report entitled “The Hidden Tragedy: Pollution in the Developing World”, asserts that there are a very few case studies showing that action is being undertaken to reduce environmental pollution in developing countries.

“In Africa, 27 percent of the total burden of disease is a result of environmental related causes,” read the report.

Environmental Management Authority Communications Manager Steady Kangata said it was important for citizens to engage in environment friendly activities.

“Communities should be aware of the dangers of polluting the air because it impacts negatively on a lot of people’s health especially pregnant mothers. Starting a fire this time of the year is dangerous because we are now in the fire season where the chances that they will spread rapidly are very high,” Kangata said.

“Citizens should ensure that their income generating initiatives are not detrimental to the health of others. They should ensure that their activities are environment friendly.”

Post published in: News

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