Eswatini has directed funding towards preventing the exchange of polluted ground water between South Africa, Eswatini and Mozambique.
The country recently launched a project aimed at addressing surface water pollution, with the main focus being stopping the improper disposal of used baby diapers.
“The project aims at reducing the environmental impact caused by the poor disposal of disposable nappies, sanitary pads, and masks amongst other waste by rural communities. This will have a positive effect on prevention of surface water pollution, that is greatly degrading the natural resource we need for future generations,” said Ayanda Dube, Chairperson of the Earth Wise Team.
The team has collaborated with WaterAid in the project that benefitted part of US$2.2 billion donated by NedBank Africa to support green economy projects and programmes.
Nedbank Africa Regions Managing Executive Terence Sibiya said his institution is mindful of the importance of green economy to people’s livelihoods.
“We have already invested US$5.8 million in 41 water projects in countries including Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique because we realise that such projects lead to clean energy, employment opportunity and economic growth,” he said.
Painting a picture of how baby diapers and sanitary pads were affecting the provision of clean water, Principal Environmental Officer in the Ministry of Health Daniel Sithole said about 15 600 diapers used by some of the 65 000 under the age of two years in Eswatini, were not disposed of properly every month.
“This means 187 000 diapers per year contribute to water pollution. They pollute the same water we pass through to Mozambique. Imagine if the same was happening to SA where we received some of our ground water.”
He said it was for this reason that they were all out to fight this form of pollution before the waste gets to the water as it was also costly to purify the water.
A report published by End Water Poverty in 2017 suggests that one baby needs between 4000 – 6000 diaper changes, an indication that consumption is accordingly high.
It said that baby diapers represented roughly two per cent of all household waste on average, most waste which mainly ended up in landfills, taking up to 450 years to decompose.
Director of Water Affairs Trevor Shongwe said most of the human waste deposited into water sources through baby nappies ended up feeding water habitants including fish and prawns as it is eventually deposited into sea, especially in Mozambique.
“We end up eating fish and prawns, and by extension we are eating this waste.”
He said diapers also clogged water pipes and occupied space that would have been occupied by water in some dams.
“Sand particles are not longer a threat now, but diapers are.”
The project is about awareness creation; identification of areas of collaboration on responding to the challenge, planning to develop advocacy papers to engage decision makers on policy implementation on environmentally friendly campaigns and addressing surface water pollution in rural and peri-urban areas.
This will prevent water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, cryptosporidiosis, and ascariasis.
Sithole said it was evident that they could not control the usage of disposable nappies as a survey they conducted in 2019 revealed that most people preferred them over washable cloth nappies.
He said the people listed the advantages of disposable as follows: more sanitary; easy to use and easy to manage when travelling; higher absorption capacity, preventing nappy rash and readily available even at convenient stores.