Humans create an awful lot of trash. In fact, each year, citizens of this planet throw away 50 billion cans, 27 billion glass bottles, and 65 million plastics. Where does that waste go? To landfills, where it piles up and slowly degrades, leaching chemicals into the environment.
Sometimes, the trash in landfills collapses. This recently occurred in an impoverished neighborhood 10 km away from the center of Mozambique. As a consequence, 10 houses were buried and 16 people were killed. Now, activists are calling for the mayor’s resignation, as he failed to follow through with his promise to close the dump.
The 42-acre Hulene dump is a “mountain of rubbish,” according to The Guardian, that towers nearly 50 feet over the people who have established homes nearby. At approximately 3 am last Monday, torrential rains triggered a collapse on the landfill.
“It was late and the rain was pouring down, but I was woken up by something that sounded like an explosion,” said Paulina Cosa, a resident. Not only did the avalanche of garbage consume more than 10 houses, it killed 16 people and wounded 16 others. Reportedly, a mother and her newborn baby were among the casualties.
“We came out and heard some people screaming, we didn’t know what was happening,” said Maria Jose, a resident. “When we went to investigate we found that the waste had come down to the houses and a lot of people were among it, trying to dig it up and rescue their families.”
Recovery efforts have since stopped. Three days after the collapse, heavy equipment was used to push back the mounds of rubbish and “reclaim the 100 or so meters of land” that was swallowed up by the trash.
“We are now working to return the waste to where it came from,” said Joao Mucavele, the city’s director of health and cemeteries. “The people who were living here will be given help, but no one can live here from now on.” Reportedly, residents at the site of the collapse have been relocated to a temporary shelter, located about 30 minutes south of the dump.
Though the dump is an assault on the senses, it is home to many of the city’s poor residents. This is because at the dump, citizens can sort through recyclable items and sell them for a profit. In Mozambique, almost half of the population lives below the poverty line.
Some people are now calling for the resignation of mayor David Simango. When campaigning for re-election in 2013, Simango promised to shut down the dump. For fifteen years, the local environmental group Livangingo has pushed for the Maputo landfill to be closed. According to them, the dump is operating beyond capacity and is creating dangerous living conditions.
“What happened on Monday we’ve been telling the government would happen for years,” said Manuel Cardoso, an activist. “We don’t think they see solving this problem that’s been around since 2001 as a priority. They have to be held responsible for their inaction.”
“The collapse speaks to issues of poverty and urban planning,” said Matthew Cochrane, a Red Cross spokesman. “Those affected are the poorest of the poor. They have no choice but to live there, and when there’s heavy rain, they’re the ones who find themselves on the front line.”
Eight of the people were buried in a state-sponsored funeral last week. Said Maputo City governor Iolanda Cintura said in a speech: “On behalf of the government, in my own name we apologize to the Uamusse, Ngovene, Thousene, Mondlane, and Bendene families for what happened. We expect everybody to help all these families to recover their hope.”
What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!
Image Credit: EPA Photo