Walvis students protest over sewage dumping in lagoon

By Jade McClune

THE Municipality of Walvis Bay was not in a position this week to answer questions from the public and the media about the purported dumping of sewage waste into the lagoon, which besides its value as a tourist attraction is also an internationally renowned and protected site for birdlife and other endangered animals.

A petition was launched last week by prefects at Walvis Bay Private High School aimed to draw attention to the smelly problem and managed to garner over 1,350 signatures by Wednesday this week. They said: “Currently, residents of Walvis Bay are extremely concerned over the dumping of raw sewage into the lagoon, as this is a major health hazard.

“Residents of our port city enjoy swimming and participating in water sports in the lagoon. Hence, this irresponsible dumping of sewage is extremely detrimental to human health. Bacterial and viral infections (such as Hepatitis) can result – to name but a few.

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“Furthermore, it damages the overall ecology of this Ramsar site. The smells are nauseating and it spoils the entire aesthetic value of the environment. The residents of our beautiful port city will no longer remain silent.

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We demand urgent intervention from the municipality and its relevant departments on this matter.

The Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty introduced in 1971 by the UN and came into effect in 1975. The Walvis Bay lagoon area was awarded the status of a Ramsar site, which refers to any wetland site considered to be of global importance under the Convention.

“The lagoon and surrounding area was declared a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance by Namibia in 1995.

The timing was reportedly linked to the transfer of Walvis Bay from South Africa to Namibia in 1994,” according to a recent study entitled, ‘Walvis Bay, Namibia: a key wetland for waders and other coastal birds in southern Africa.’

The researchers found that “Between 1997 and 2005, the complex of wetlands at Walvis Bay, central Namibia, supported, on average, 156,000 water-birds in summer and 82,000 water-birds in winter. This site thus supports the largest number of waders of any wetland in southern Africa.”

After their petition gathered over 1,200 supporters, the student leaders of WBPS wrote to their supporters this week to say, “We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for the tremendous support from far and wide. This dumping of raw sewage continues as we speak. This is unacceptable and must be immediately addressed.

The students were expected to deliver their petition to council representatives late on Wednesday.

“We shall now draft a letter with the full petition to the Municipality of Walvis Bay. This letter will be addressed to… Mayor Immanuel Wilfred, CEO Muronga Haingura and the relevant departments at the municipality: sewerage and public health services. This will be presented to the municipality at 15h00, Wednesday afternoon, 26 June 2019.”

It was not immediately clear how long the “sewage dumping” has been going on for and what the source of the wastewater was, but the students said this week that it was still ongoing.

Despite a request for clarification sent earlier this week, a municipal spokesperson said yesterday they could not respond immediately as they first need to gather all the evidence from various departments to put out a coherent statement.