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Garth Rattray | ZOSO style needed for our ills

Published:Sunday | March 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM

I'm elated to learn that Mr Daryl Vaz intends to initiate a campaign nicknamed ZOSO (zone of special operations) for the environment and that he's going to start with the illegal burning of toxic material at the Riverton landfill. He will have the full cooperation and backing of the police in stopping the repeated burning of tyres and other material by some residents on the periphery of the landfill to extract metal for the scrap metal trade.

The most recent fire near the Riverton landfill affected nearby communities and one school had to close for the day. Although the landfill no longer burns, occasionally I see thick plumes of black smoke and smell acrid fumes coming from the vicinity. Those fires were caused by people who burnt tyres to extract metal, yet no one in authority has done anything about this dangerous practice.

There are several litres of petroleum and oil in each old tyre. When burnt, toxic particulates and gases are released into the atmosphere. Some of them enter our lungs directly, others get into the soil and water, where they are deposited and absorbed by the foods (plants and animals) that people eat. When these toxic substances enter our lungs, some of them remain in our fat stores and others are secreted in the milk of breastfeeding mothers. Several can cause cancer and some can cause foetal abnormalities.

A partial list of the substances liberated whenever tyres are burnt includes chlorine and styrene (both are thought to cause cancer), chromium, zinc, barium, cobalt, copper, iron, aluminium, manganese, vanadium and more than 20 different heavy metals. There is also benzene (known to cause cancer) and lead, butadiene, cadmium and mercury. Added to this is arsenic and dioxin, which is a highly toxic environmental pollutant.

Of course, all those pollutants lead to allergies and lung diseases, especially asthma, perhaps lung cancer, other cancers and problems with developing foetuses. The very young and elderly are especially susceptible.




We also need a ZOSO-style intervention for squatting and illegal occupation of sidewalks. The Government turns a blind eye to squatting and to those who decide to 'try a thing' by erecting sidewalk shops wherever they see it feasible. There are many currently existing that are very visible, but nothing will be done about them unless and until they cause some serious problem. Remember when United States President Barak Obama visited and all of a sudden those people selling crabs near Heroes Circle had to be hurriedly moved?

I believe that governments allow their voting base to do whatever they want in order to keep them happy. But there must be established order and discipline throughout our society. If people need somewhere to peddle their goods or services, the Government should assist them. And if they set up shop illegally, they must be removed before they become ensconced and moving them seems cruel and unfair. The same applies for squatting. Those informal communities are difficult to police and lack proper social amenities. They operate outside the norms and standards set for the safety and health of our citizens.

There is an urgent need for a ZOSO-style intervention for traffic violations. Increased fines are not the panacea for our horrible traffic woes. The indiscipline on our roads have long ago achieved crisis proportions. Many drivers follow their personal rules while putting everyone else in danger. The corridors of maximal abuse are well known. We need to put a stop to the road hogs.

The greatest offenders are the route-taxi operators. I heard someone who represented that group griping about police interference and ended by saying (on air) that the police should ease up because the taxi drivers have to 'eat a food'. Route taxis bore ahead, race one another, form new lanes in order to get as many fares as possible. The rest of us only get in their way. Only by instilling order, discipline and by retaking the streets will any government start to get a handle on criminality.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and