Beitbridge border transformation addresses pollution issues Mr Francois Diedrechsen

Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau

A clean and safe environment is every citizen of the world’s desire and right, which spells out the need for Governments and those in authority to exorcise the pollution ghost.

In light of this shared desire and feeling, the Government created the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) in 2012 to upscale the sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment, the prevention of pollution and environmental degradation among other issues.

There is a general consensus among Zimbabweans that poorly managed environments have ripple effects including the spread of diseases and disturbances to the ecosystem.

Some of the diseases related to poor environmental practices include Cholera and Tuberculosis (TB) among others.

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.

It remains one of the major killer diseases in Zimbabwe especially among people living with HIV. Each day, close to 28 000 people fall ill to TB and nearly 4 000 people losing their lives to this preventable and curable disease.

Overcrowding, among a host of issues, including dust and silica are some of the known causes of TB, and EMA has in some areas been engaged in fights with several organisations over such kinds of pollutions.

Urban centres, mining and border towns are among the worst areas affected by pollution and TB in Zimbabwe.

In the last decade that state of pollution at Beitbridge border post had become a thorn in the flesh for many residents and those transiting through the country and Sadc’s busiest inland port of entry.

The town is home to over 90 000 people and also has a daily transit population of 15 000 which at times rises to 34 000 at peak.

The worst affected residents are those living in western suburbs, especially Dulivhadzimu and Limpopo View and the water treatment plant.

It is reported that the volume of traffic and people has been increasing each year along with a relative growth in regional and international trade.

The status quo in this area, where only the export side was paved has been a ticking health time bomb for border officials on the arrivals commercial section and over 5000 residents living directly on the west of the border risk contracting TB and other diseases.

Research indicates that it costs anything from US$66 to US$30 000 to treat a TB patient, for a full regimen depending on the country and strain of the disease.

In addition to carbon toxins coming from vehicles, there was a lot of fine dust that was rising from this area 24 hours a day, as haulage trucks, buses and other vehicular traffic navigated through the border post.

The Government has over a decade been trying to upgrade the port of entry into a modern urban centre without success due to a number of issues, including funding and bureaucracy.

However, the year 2018 has been a turning point after the New Dispensation led by President Mnangagwa decided to upgrade the border into a modern urban centre at a cost of US$300 million.

This was done under a private public partnership with the Zimborders Consortium, between January 2020 and November this year.

Major civil works under this project include; the construction of more commercial customs offices, paving, and expansion of sewer and water reticulation facilities, separation of traffic into buses, light vehicles, tourists, commercial vehicles.

The project also comes with out of port works, including the building of 2220 staff houses, a 11,4 mega litres water reservoir, an animal plant and quarantine centre, a sewer oxidation dam and a new state of the art fire station.

The border civil works have been completed while civil works on the out of port works are at various stages.

Zimborders Consortium chief executive officer, Mr Francois Diedrechsen said civil works which started in January last year had been planned in three phases to ensure that there was continuity in terms of traffic flow.

The freight terminal opened to traffic in October last year while the bus terminal opened for business in June this year.

“We have officially opened the light vehicles and pedestrians’ terminals which is now operating smoothly,” said Mr Diedrechsen.

“All other in port and out of port works have been completed except for the housing development which is scheduled to be completed by mid-March (slightly ahead of schedule)”.

He said the separation of traffic ensures that the travellers get customised services depending with their needs at all the three terminals.

Mr Diedrechsen said they were already working with other border agencies to ensure a smooth flow of an anticipated increased traffic through a new look border post.

The new light vehicles terminal, he said can comfortably accommodate approximately 2400 vehicles per day (total for both directions), even though historically and current volumes are less than half that.

He added that in terms of the general outlook of the whole project including out-of-port works, everything is still on track to be completed as per previously given timelines.

The consortium’s general manager, Mr Nqobile Ncube said in a recent interview that the border post was being transformed under three main pillars which include the separation of traffic, automation, and building efficiencies.

“There was a need to create traffic separation. You will recall that in the old border setup, all stakeholders were piled up in one hall,” he said.

“This includes commercial traffic, ordinary travel, buses, light vehicles, and tourists.

“Despite your different needs you would be lumped in one setup and be treated in the same way. That created a problem in services delivery”.

The border upgrading project, he said would reduce the time people spent and cargo freight at the port of entry.

In addition, the border will increase the volume of human and cargo traffic, cleared at a more convenient and quick rate due to the separation of traffic.

Beitbridge Mayor, councillor Munyaradzi Chitsunge said the laying of concrete at the border post will help reduce fugitive dust emissions which had become a headache for the community, travellers and border agencies.

“We are particularly happy, especially with the fact that there is going to be a reduction of dust emission from the trucks. Obviously that means that the possibility of reducing airborne diseases like TB is now a reality for us,” said Cllr Chitsunge.

“In addition, we expected longer life to equipment  such as air conditioners, fridges and computers whose lifespan used to be reduced as a result of dusty accumulation, and generally everyone wants to be smart all the time, so people will be smart”.

He said the local authority had already embraced the greening and smart city initiative to match the massive development at the border pots.

A number of initiatives, including regular collection of refuse, erection of litter bins along all major and secondary roads and business centres had been done to improve their capacity to manage solid waste issues.

Local Government and Public Works Minister, Cde July Moyo said it was critical for the Zimborders Consortium and the Beitbridge Municipality to work together on the management of solid waste around the town and the port of entry.

The Herald is reliably informed that the town produces 1 000 tonnes of solid waste monthly though the local authority is only collecting 700 tonnes.

The municipality is currently working on modernising a current landfill in line with the town’s transformation into a medium city.

EMA’s publicist for Matabeleland South, Mr Simon Musasiwa said recently that the most common diseases emanating from exposures include emphysema and asthma attacks.

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