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The filthy state of our taxi ranks needs to be addressed

World Environment Day (WED), commemorated annually on 5 June, has come and gone.  The day has grown to become a global platform for communal outreach, drawing in governments, major corporations, NGOs and communities to consider their role in the restoration of the ecosystem.  

This year’s WED theme was Ecosystem Restoration, aimed at preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of ecosystems across the world, for the benefits of nature and its people: us.  

Having observed the role that humans play in the degradation of the very ecosystem they should protect, I started asking myself the following questions:

–   Are people aware that they are causing damage to the ecosystem through their naivety and disregard of environmental bylaws aimed at protecting it; and why is it so difficult to adhere to a simple set of bylaws aimed at fighting illegal dumping?

My argument is that illegal dumping is a crime committed by sober-minded people who intentionally collect garbage from their houses, and carelessly throw it in places that have not been demarcated for dumping.  In many cases, these delinquents commit the crime unashamedly, right in front of the No Dumping signs installed by their municipalities.

The condition of our taxi ranks in almost every town is appalling.  It is so disappointing to observe that this horrifying and despicable state is a result of human beings who are actually supposed to ensure their cleanliness.  The stench and the level of litter is unbearable, regardless of whether there are rubbish bins and lavatories. Why do we allow this to happen?  And do we ever listen to our conscience while committing this wrong?

Sadly some of the vendors who eke out a living at these taxi ranks unwittingly subject the children they bring along to unhealthy environments, thereby denying them their fundamental right to grow up in a clean environment, as enshrined in Section 2 of our Constitution.

Now is the time for taxi bosses to institute some harsh measures against these environmental degraders responsible for the pollution at taxi ranks.  Punishment could be in the form of a fine, or subjecting any offender to cleaning a portion of the rank, in full view of everyone else, as a punishment for being reckless and a threat to the environment. 

It is no-brainer that the rubbish in the taxi ranks is a breeding ground for  some of the hundreds of diseases detrimental to human life, as garbage washed away by rain always flows into streams, rivers and dams that provide us with our drinking water.  The bottom line is that unsafe drinking water poses a serious threat to our health, especially for young children and babies.

We are all aware of the significance of nature and the ecosystem, but most importantly we must be aware that nature should be respected.  The government is doing its part through awareness initiatives such as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Good Green Deeds programme, which calls for action to help mitigate the impact of climate change.  This can be done by simply keeping our surroundings clean, planting and growing trees, and taking part in clean-up campaigns, particularly those in rivers and streams. 

These programmes also encourage individuals to see wealth in waste through reusing, reducing and recycling.  The recycling economy tells us that there is wealth in waste, and our taxi ranks will be cleaner if people grab that opportunity to be their own bosses — and create much-needed jobs in the process.

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Bheki Nyathikazi
Bheki Nyathikazi is a communications practitioner and a former journalist who writes in his personal capacity

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