Kya Sand Burning Wasteland Community Forum takes illegal dumping fight to next level

Devon Steenkamp said that the environmental impact of the current situation is severe, causing long-term damage that will take years to repair. Immediate action is necessary to protect the environment and the health of the community.

The Kya Sand Burning Wasteland Community Forum a Non-Profit Company (NPC) is taking legal steps to try to fight the issue of illegal dumping sites in Kya Sand that are constantly burning and affecting other neighbouring communities.

Keith Elliott of the forum confirmed that they have served their demands on the authorities, and they have applied for a court date.

“We have proof that our papers have been served. The legal process is a slow one, but we are confident in our legal team and the South African legal system. We are aware that the initiation of the legal process is having an effect. The authorities – respondents in this matter – have refused to provide comments on the dumping and burning to other journalists working on the story, stating that the matter is the subject of a legal process and that they are not able to comment.”

He added that at the very least – they have proof that the City is aware of the issue and cannot deny knowledge of this serious situation.

“At best we trust that they know that we are serious about bringing the required change that we have a competent legal team working for us and that we have the affected communities on our side.”

At least 14 illegal commercial dumps are operating between Kya Sand and Chartwell AH on the western bank of the Klein Jukskei River. The illegal dumps service up to 800 trucks daily.

The classes of waste that are taken in by the operators include household waste, building rubble and waste, garden refuse, toxic chemicals, electronic goods and even medical waste.

Each site is very well managed by two marshals at every site. Their clients arrive at the site and are marshalled to the specific area where their load may be deposited.

The waste is burned daily to make more space for the next day’s loads. The dumps cause air pollution as the dumps smoulder all night, still producing smoke.

One of the busy dumping sites in Kya Sand. Photo: Mthuisi Lwazi Khuboni

Elliott explained that during this period the partially burned waste releases the most toxic airborne compounds, the products of partial combustion of synthetic materials like plastics.

“Some of these compounds, called dioxins, are persistent environmental pollutants that tend to accumulate in the food chain. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.”

He added that the dumps are also run by organised crime syndicates which is a security risk for all residents of the area.

“Whilst we are aware that this is a complex problem and that it is not easy to solve, we also feel that if the authorities had responded to our calls for action when we began this journey in 2020, it would have been easier to resolve. Our demands are simple. We believe that the authorities need to fulfil their responsibilities to the residents and ratepayers in the area.

  • They need to stop all illegal dumping at all sites.
  • The current sites need to be cleared and secured to prevent a recurrence of the dumping.
  • Enforcement from the City must maintain a presence in the area and prevent this industry from starting up again.

“This is a major source of air pollution, groundwater pollution and surface water pollution. If the authorities fail to get this under control now, we are fearful that we will have over 20 dumpsites before long.”

A fire in an illegal dumping sites in Kya Sand. Photo: Mthuisi Lwazi Khuboni

Ward 134 Devon Steenkamp explained that he has been eagerly waiting for the budget from the mayor and MMC to address and control the issue of illegal dumping in Kya Sand. The delay in addressing this issue is causing significant health and environmental concerns for the community.

“The budget passed on May 22 allocates R10 000 000 for capital expenditure in the financial year 2025-2026 for compliance and alterations. Additionally, there is a capital project for the Waste Integrated Management Facility budgeted at R49 192 000 for the financial year 2026-2027. However, these plans are too far in the future. We need immediate interventions to deal with the current crisis.”

“This lack of accountability is unacceptable, and the City must ensure these funds are used effectively and transparently to address the illegal dumping and its environmental impact. I urgently want to see immediate interventions. Specifically, I want to see JMPD roadblocks 24/7 at every entrance into Kya Sand to prevent illegal dumping and stop the burning.”

He added that regardless of who the new National and Provincial Governments are after the recent elections, the community will continue to drive this issue until they see real change and improvement.

The City of Johannesburg was sent questions on this issue but has not responded by the time of going to print. However, their response will be published once made available.

Related article: R420m required to clean and rehabilitate Kya Sand dumping sites

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