Three people at the University of Namibia (Unam) campus in Katima Mulilo were hospitalised after they collapsed yesterday morning due to toxic smoke emanating from the dump site situated in close proximity to Unam grounds.
Over the years, Unam students have expressed grave concern regarding a dump site situated in close proximity to the institution, which they say poses a health hazard.
“We first demonstrated and then we had a meeting with the governor (Lawrence Sampofu) and the former mayor (Charles Matengu) regarding the dump site. At the time we agreed that it would be relocated. They failed on their promise to relocate it. We can’t study well, we are all affected academically and mentally. The smoke is so bad that often we can’t breathe properly,” a Unam student criticised.
Another student at the campus yesterday said three people collapsed due to the highly toxic smoke that engulfed Unam yesterday morning.
Of the three, it is reported that two are senior staff members, and a student who has a history of asthma.
Contacted for comment, Mayor of Katima Mulilo Georgina Mwiya-Simataa yesterday could not confirm whether the three were hospitalised, but said she only received a phone call that one of the victims is an asthma sufferer.
She however said the town council “is aware of the crisis and is in the process of developing a new dump site far from residents.”
“I heard that someone is already having asthma. No doctor informed me exactly as to what happened. We are concerned about the dump site and plans are underway to relocate it. We are not doing anything deliberate. This morning, I spoke to officials from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Windhoek to come and help us do an environmental impact assessment on the area, where we plan to relocate the dump site on the outskirts of town,” said Mwiya-Simataa.
New Era could however not establish whether the affected three have since been discharged or not.
She noted that the land is already made available, and once the environmental assessment is done, only then can the work commence.
“It cannot be correct that a dump site is located within the town vicinity,” she said, adding it was established long after independence, but the town has since expanded.
The issue of the dump site is nothing new, as students have over the years expressed their worries, and several meetings took place between them and the Katima Mulilo Town Council but to no avail.
Students are distressed that the situation gets worse when waste management officials burn waste, as the hazardous smoke engulfs the campus.
The governor also agreed that the issue of the dump site comes a long way, saying the council is in the process of relocating it.
“The Katima Mulilo Town Council has informed me that they have to find a contractor to relocate it elsewhere, because it is polluting the area especially during the early morning and evening hours. It affects residents around the area especially the campus. It also poses a danger to the power grid as it runs there,” he said, but insisted he was not informed about anybody collapsing from the smoke.
Students charged they raised the issue of the dump site being relocated in 2014 but the town council has not yet acted.
A resolution was passed during 2014’s meeting with the former mayor of Katima Mulilo on relocating the dump site far from people, but nothing has come of that meeting, much to the chagrin of students.
Further, they called on the government to intervene in the issue of the dump site being 800m west of Katima Mulilo campus.
Mwiya-Simataa said the current dump site is not fenced off, hence people often scavenge for stale and rotten food and other discarded items and sometimes they start a fire in the process.