River pollution threatens lives in Tanzania’s port city

Attention focused on Msimbazi River with dangerous effluents, sewage discharged daily as globe marks World Rivers Day

Kizito Makoye   | 25.09.2021
River pollution threatens lives in Tanzania’s port city file photo


Millions in Tanzania’s largest port-city are at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases as a cocktail of untreated waste water and hazardous industrial effluents are randomly discharged into the Msimbazi River.

The river, which flows through the heart of the city, is severely degraded and under intense environmental pressure due to widespread discharge of human and industrial wastes, including raw sewage from pit latrines.

Industrial pollution, untreated sewage and open defecation have made the water in the river a toxic soup infested with bacterial infection.

As the globe marks World Rivers Day, health experts have cited sewage disposal into the Msimbazi River as being responsible for increased waterborne diseases, including diarrhea, cholera and dysentery.

Snaking through the city into the Indian Ocean, the 36-kilometer (22-mile) long river is widely polluted and infested with raw sewage, animal wastes and industrial chemicals.

As one of Africa’s fastest growing cities, with 70% of its 6 million inhabitants living in squalid conditions in informal settlements, the city is prone to flooding that is often causing waste-water pollution and diseases outbreaks.

Only 10% of Dar es Salaam residents connected to sewage system

Residents in Dar es Salaam have for decades watched in disbelief as the Msimbazi River turned into a cesspool infested with run-off emitting heavy stench.

Investigations conducted by Anadolu Agency revealed high levels of heavy metal in the river run off from local industry and a waste dump near the Vingunguti area, leaking sludge into the river.

Because only 10% of Dar es Salaam residents are connected to the city’s sewage system, the majority use pit latrine and sceptic tanks that produce a huge volume of unsafely managed fecal sludge that often end up in this river.

Investigations further revealed a local abattoir is discharging wastes into the river causing the color of the water to turn to brown-red.

“This neighborhood is not planned, local residents do not have the means to dispose of wastes from their toilets, as a last resort they direct it to the river,” said Khalid Mazimbo, a resident of Kigogo.

According to the Journal of Scientific Research and Reports, the soil around Msimbazi is infested with high concentrations of lead, chromium and copper as manufacturing and processing factories discharge heavy metals and strong alkalis from textile mills steel, paint dye and food processing.

In the Kigogo neighborhood on the banks of Msimbazi River, raw sewage is perpetually flowing into the river forcing a foul stench to waft into the streets and exposes residents to health risks, said locals.

On verge of total disaster

Virtually every time it rains, residents in the crammed neighborhood dump raw sewage directly into the river.

Menrad Kahumba, a public health expert at Muhimbili National Hospital warned that seeping sewage into the river can trigger a surge of dangerous bacteria.

“We are on the verge of a total disaster, people should stop dumping sewage into the river,” he said.

Looking at the river from the vantage point through the rolling hills of Kisarawe, it is hard to tell if it has lost its glory.

But as the water flow through past factories, hospitals and farms, its purity degrades and becomes murky.

Water pollution is a growing global crisis, threatening humans and wildlife. From piles of garbage to invisible chemicals, a wide range of pollutants end up in rivers and eventually into the ocean.

The Msimbazi River served as an important water source and its adjoining fertile floodplain provided a good area for farming and animal grazing, but with increasing human activities and changing weather patterns, the perennial riverbed has become seasonal.

Law prohibits man-made water pollution

Samuel Gwamaka, the Director General of Tanzania’s environmental regulatory body -- National Environmental Management Council (NEMC), warned individuals and industries about discharging effluents into the Msimbazi River because it is against the law.

“Our law is very clear, whoever is discharging trash or chemical in the river is breaking the law. We will not hesitate to punish anyone with such behavior” he told Anadolu Agency.

According to the country’s 2004 Environmental Management Act, man-made water pollution is prohibited.

The Msimbazi River, which passes through human settlement and industries, is severely polluted and is clogged with trash that have made it breeding ground of germs.

“The quality of the river’s water has sharply declined and it is no longer safe for domestic use, even for irrigation,” said Gwamaka.

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