Residents of Ha-Tṥosane have approached the Constitutional Court for an order to bar the Maseru City Council (MCC) from dumping garbage at a dumpsite in the area.
The residents want the court to declare the dumping practice a violation of their rights to a safe and healthy environment.
In their application filed this week, the residents also want the court to declare the MCC’s refusal to conduct an environmental audit on how pollutants dumped at the site affects their lives, unlawful.
The MCC, Golden Rewards, the company managing the dump site, the Health ministry, the Tourism, Environment and Culture ministry, the Local Government and Chieftainship ministry, the Law and Constitutional Affairs ministry and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are first to eighth respondents respectively in the application.
The residents also want the respondents to clean-up the dumping area and leave it in an environmentally friendly condition.
In the event that they fail to meet all their demands, the residents want the respondents to provide them with alternative residential sites and to build “us houses of similar plans, values, qualities and dimensions as our erstwhile homes”.
The residents say the dumpsite is a threat to their lives. Sometime in October 2019, a fire broke out causing an odour which the community complained had caused them respiratory infections. The fire was believed to have been caused by chemical combustion and lasted for over a week, they say.
Their court application is premised on section 36 of the Constitution read with section 4 of the Environment Act, which they argue recognises their right to a healthy environment and well-being.
“The respondents jointly and/or severally dumb pollutants in Ha-Tṥosane village. The dumping area is close to some residential homes so much that they actually share an unsealed border,” a resident, Taole Mangope, states in his founding affidavit filed on behalf of his co-residents.
“The pollutants dumped herein include solids, liquids, gases which directly and/or indirectly lead to environmental degradation and harm to our health and lives. The pollutants range from hazardous plastics, oils, child and adult nappies with faeces, asbestos roofing scraps, remnants of corrugated iron, industrial waste wool, decomposed dogs and other animal carcasses, industrial wastes, aborted foetus and all sorts of hazardous trash. These elements cause unremitting decomposition, bacteria, maggots, bad odour and general nuisance to residents, visitors and passer-by.
“In addition, since the dumping area is now full and exhausted, the respondents from time to time use an unbearably noisy excavator to dig deep into the garbage so as to lower it. The net effect of this excavation is to expose underground odour, weaken the surrounding landscape and lateral support thereby posing threats of landslides. The dug pit also accumulates unclean surface and underground water. The pollutants contaminate both the surface and underground water table for the present and future generations in violation of sustainable development precepts.”
Mr Mangope also argues that there is continuous discharge of contaminated water flowing from the garbage into nearby dongas, leading to further contamination of drinking water and environmental degradation.
There is also constant burning and smothering smoke from the pit.
He further argues there is a high risk of fire to their homes, especially when it is windy. He cites an example of one Mr Jerry whom he says lost property worth millions of maloti in October 2019 owing to a fire emanating from the dumping area.
Their animals die from time to time from consuming plastics and garbage from the site, they claim.
The applicants argue that their request to get the respondents to conduct an environmental assessment and audit the environment was denied.
“I verily state that the respondents are bound by the international, and regional conventions to furnish environmental information to us since we demanded same and/or because their activities impose environmental hazard to our everyday lives. They are also bound by the municipal laws of this country to do so, namely, section 95 of the Environment Act read with section 14 of the Constitution,” Mr Mangope says.
The residents have therefore asked the court to declare the continued dumping of garbage in their area a violation of their rights to dignity, private family life, property, equality and freedom from discrimination.
On behalf of his fellow residents, Mr Mangope seeks “an interdict that the respondents be jointly and/or severally interdicted/prevented and/or directed to discontinue the activity of dumping the pollutants and/or any incidental activities thereto at Ha-Tṥosane, with immediate effect.”