Mozambique landfill landslide kills seventeen

At least 17 people have been killed in Mozambique this week after heavy rains caused a 15-metre high pile of rubbish to partially collapse at a rubbish dump in Mozambique, intensifying calls for action to assist communities in developing nations with managing their waste.

The collapse, which occurred today (19 February) at 3am local time at the Hulene landfill, some six miles from the nation’s capital Maputo, saw mounds of waste destroy seven houses following heavy rains, killing 17 people, with more feared to be buried beneath the debris.

Mozambique landfill landslide kills seventeen
Many live on the Hulene landfill, scavenging materials that can be reused and resold
Hulene is the only official dump serving the 3.5 million inhabitants of Maputo and the victims could include those squatting near the landfill scratching out an existence on the waste on the site. However, authorities fear that more people could be living in these homes than recorded, meaning the death toll could rise.

Initial reports suggest that the houses were part of an informal settlement and residents living there had previously been told to leave the site. Residents of nearby dwellings have since fled their homes out of fear of further collapses.

Local councillor for Ka Mavota Municipal District, Despedida Rita, told the Independent: “Up to now 17 dead bodies were recovered. We fear more might be unaccounted for. So we will keep searching for bodies buried underneath the rubbish pile.”

The horrific incident in Mozambique is the third major landfill incident to occur in developing countries over the past year, with more than 115 people perishing in a landslide at a landfill site in Ethiopia back in March 2017, while at least 30 people died in a major landslide at a landfill site in Sri Lanka, which also destroyed nearly 80 homes.

The state of waste management infrastructure in developing countries has gained a significantly increased amount of attention in recent times, owing largely to the the world’s waking up to the scale and extent of plastic waste pollution, especially that which afflicts the marine environment.

A recent study by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research claimed that somewhere between 88-92 per cent of all plastic waste entering the marine environment comes from ten rivers in Africa and Asia, sparking a revival in interest in waste management infrastructure in developing countries, as these rivers are located in underdeveloped areas where populations are growing rapidly and outstripping the capacity supplied by waste management infrastructure.

And government and industry appear to be waking up to this problem. In October last year, CIWM, in partnership with waste management charity WasteAid UK, whose Chief Executive Mike Webster finished top in Resource’s Hot 100 waste and resources sector power rankings, released ‘Making Waste Work: A toolkit - Community Waste Management in Low and Middle income Countries’. The toolkit is designed to provide communities with less developed waste management infrastructure the tools and knowledge to employ low-cost ‘waste to wealth’ technologies involving minimal capital investment to reduce waste and turn waste arising into products that can be sold locally.

The UK Government, meanwhile, upon releasing its long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan in January, has committed to using overseas aid to help developing nations do more to tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste.

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