EAST London handyman Trevor Watson is outraged. The reason for his anger? The shocking state of the Umtiza Nature Reserve near the Buffalo Pass, as well as the grounds of the East London race track.
Watson visited the area and, through foot patrols and aerial coverage, discovered that illegal dumping was fast becoming rife in the formerly pristine area.
From illegally dumped animal body parts – possibly as a result of stock theft – to mountains of dirty nappies, plastic, food wrappers and other litter, the reserve is fast becoming a dumping ground for refuse.
Illegal dumping sites can also be seen on the race track grounds.
“Clearly the city management is inept. One just has to look at the scale of filth dumped in the reserve and at our race track to name just two areas – and there are many more sites all along the main road,” said Watson.
Despite the various negative repercussions illegal dumping has on the environment and the city including pollution of the air, water and soil, the dumping in the Umtiza Nature Reserve is set to have a negative impact on the survival of the umtiza tree which can be found there.
The unique evergreen tree is endemic to the Eastern Cape and is only found in the forested kloofs in southern coastal and scarp forests in the East London, Kentani and King William’s Town districts.
“The umtiza tree is a valuable asset that needs to be safeguarded and preserved for future generations. Right now it is not being looked after,” said Watson, who grew up with a fond appreciation of the flora and fauna in South Africa.
He said he had found the heads of goats and sheep, hooves and entrails during recent visits.
“The smell was disgusting. This area needs urgent ongoing policing and a massive clean-up to enable it to again be called a nature reserve.”
Watson said it was believed that the closure of dumpsites in and around East London might have resulted in an escalation of the illegal dumping currently found in the area and that a need existed for Buffalo City Municipality (BCM) to put sustainable systems in place closer to the city, while enforcing environmental laws.
The closest official dumpsite is in Berlin, a distance most people from East London or King William’s Town are unwilling to travel.
When contacted about the illegal dumpsites in these two areas, BCM spokeswoman Bathandwa Diamond said the city had various programmes running simultaneously in order to curb illegal dumping.
The programmes included the “GO Green, Keep BCMM Clean” campaign aimed at educating the community about the effects of illegal dumping.
According to Diamond, a second initiative, started by citizens in 2010, calls for community members to adopt a piece of land where there is illegal dumping activity in their neighbourhood.
“The city also puts up the ‘stop illegal dumping’ signs but people ignore these and some signs are stolen,” Diamond added.
Watson believes that the municipality needs to create small, well-controlled collection sites where steel skips are placed within easy reach of the public to dump waste into specific bins.
“Separate bins for glass, metal, plastic etc could be colour coded and set up for easy retrieval and placed by the municipality at various places convenient to the general public.
“An immediate clean-up of these two areas is also desperately needed, as well as rugged policing by people empowered to arrest and prosecute those caught in the act of illegal dumping.”