Tourist Sewerage Hazard
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Residents of Impalila Island in the Caprivi Region are concerned by the indiscriminate disposal of raw sewerage into the Zambezi and Chobe rivers, reportedly by a flotilla of houseboats operating in that area, which poses a serious health hazard.
Impalila and Kasika residents are greatly worried about sewerage discharged by houseboats into the two rivers from which they draw drinking water for domestic use. They say this endangers their health, as villagers use water from the two rivers for drinking and cooking.
According to residents, there are four houseboats operating in the Zambezi and Chobe rivers, namely, the Zambezi Queen that operates in the Kasika area, while the other three - Nguni houseboat, and Ichobezi 1 and 2 houseboats - operate from Impalila Island. They allege that these boats contribute one way or another to the pollution of the water in the river.
This has led to residents who use the water becoming ill with diarrhoea and other sicknesses, after drinking water contaminated with raw sewerage spewed into the river by the houseboats that carry tourists, they charge.
A worried Impalila resident who did not want to be named, citing possible victimisation, told New Era that on several occasions they have spotted used toilet tissue floating on top of water in the two rivers.
"It's very unhealthy for us to use the water from the river and we don't have water purification tablets - the government only supplies us with water purification tablets during floods. This makes it difficult for some people without money to buy these purification tablets and we have no choice but to use the water like that," explained a concerned Impalila resident.
He added that several meetings were held in the past years with houseboat owners concerning this health and environmental issue and apparently houseboat owners had said there was nothing they could do, as they don't have an alternative site to discharge sewerage that accumulates in the luxury boats that carry foreign tourists.
Instead, they have advised residents to buy water purification tablets so that they can purify their water before they use it to avoid getting sick.
Impalila headman Henry Kalonda confirmed that houseboats discharge raw sewerage into the two rivers, causing pollution. He also confirmed that several meetings were held with houseboat owners.
Kalonda told New Era that the matter has already been reported to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and that some officials from the ministry were sent to investigate.
The headman urged government to urgently intervene and find an amicable solution.
"We depend on river water and houseboat owners are telling us that they are putting purification medicines in their toilets so the waste cannot have an effect on us, but we don't know how true this is, how can a person drink water contaminated with sewerage and not get sick?" asked Induna Kalonda.
Several efforts to get comment from the houseboat owners on their MASCOM mobile numbers operating through a mobile service provider in Botswana, proved futile as no connection could be made.
The Deputy Director of Environmental Affairs, Dr Freddy Sikabongo Simataa, confirmed that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism was aware of the issue. He said the ministry was investigating the contentious issue.
Simataa said a month ago, they visited the area and "interacted" with the houseboats. According to him, some disinfectants are being used by the houseboats apparently to mitigate the risk of polluting the two rivers before they discharge sewerage into the river.
However, the ministry is still trying to verify the effectiveness of this measure.
The investigations will also ascertain whether the disinfectants reduce the risk of sickness to people who drink or use the water for either drinking or cooking.
Simataa said they want to verify whether they can come up with on-land septic tanks into which the boats can discharge sewerage waste.
He added that lodge owners are willing to cooperate with the ministry.
Local houseboat owners have also complained that lodges in Botswana might also be dumping raw sewerage as they are not linked to the sewerage grid.
"We are still investigating this matter and we will come up with a solution to this problem in six months time," said Simataa.
According to a research by Green Sower, dumping raw sewerage into the river or sea is a serious health problem for people that use the water.
Research has found that this causes diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and schatosomiasis.
Up to three million people worldwide, the majority of them children, die from diseases caused by water polluted with micro-organisms, viruses, bacteria and protozoan parasites.
Sewerage water is not safe for bathing or fishing. It degrades the environment, endangers health and destroys fisheries.
The effects of sewerage pollution include de-oxygenation and turbidity which result in suffocation, disease and death of fish and other marine organisms; damage to ecosystems and a build-up of toxic metals and chemicals in the food chain.
Copyright New Era. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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