The Beitbridge Municipality says it will be tough on all home industries, considering the health risks they are subjecting residents to. Some residents, however, feel council is weak in its by-laws enforcement, resulting in residents flouting standing rules.
Dozens of illegal welding, hair salons, motor mechanics, restaurants, second-hand clothing and firewood traders as well as various other informal industries litter Beitbridge town.
The home industries do not conform to industrial regulations and expose the Beitbridge populace to both health and physical risk.
Beitbridge town clerk Loud Ramakgapola said his council will, in line with urbanisation underway in the border town, take action against the home industries.
“We have allocated industrial land to most of these home industries, but they are simply not taking it up. They are being selfish yet posing danger to neighbours,” Ramakgapola said.
“Welders generate sparks I believe are harmful to eyes, they emit harmful smoke, they produce sharp pieces of metal which are harmful, this is industrial stuff and we have to keep it there in the industries.”
Findings by NewsDay Weekender showed some of the effects of the fumes on welders and surrounding communities, included irritation of the respiratory tract, resulting in dryness of the throat, coughing, chest tightness and breathing difficulties.
In this respect, cadmium fumes have the worst effect which could also result in acute influenza-like illness called metal fever.
Continuous exposure to metallic fumes and dust can lead to systematic poisoning and fibrosis, causing the formation of fibrous or scar tissues in the lungs, according to the research.
“The industries disturb the peace of neighbours when they grind metals and at times blocked public roads in their work,” he said. All industrial work should be in industrial zones, Ramakgapola added.
“We set aside land behind the clinic for small industries and people should move there,” he said.
Billington Mangwana who runs one such shop said land for shops was allocated, but there is no electricity.
“We are aware of the dangers, but we cannot move there, we have families to look after,” Mangwana said.
He said council officials at times confiscated their tools and made them pay fines before returning the same tools.
Another resident, Jessa Moyo, accused municipal police and council environmentalists of not doing their work.
“These shops generate so much dirt and hazards for us, but because it has been there for long people think it’s the right thing. Council should impose steep fines to protect us from this,” Moyo, who lives at a house where such an illegal workshop is run, said.
Ramakgapola conceded that the area had no electricity and he was engaging the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority.
“We are also going to ask them to reduce voltage at the homes where these industries are, it is our prime duty to make safe all residential areas,” he said.
Beitbridge has a population of about 60 000 people, most of whose livelihoods hinge on border activities complemented by these home industry businesses. Ramakgapola said council had set aside large tracts of land for industrial development.
Beitbridge Rural District Hospital annually handles thousands of cases of respiratory infections, including tuberculosis, chronic coughs, chest infections.
A hospital sources concurred that apart from dust, fumes from arch welding were harmful to children and adults alike.
“Its the innocent children that bear the brunt. Something needs to be done urgently,” the source said.
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