THE quick action and persistence by an eco activist living in Glenmore put a stop to the burning of vegetation and rubbish by staff of the city’s Parks Department at the Stellawood Cemetery.
Resident, Deon Braun contacted Berea Mail on Friday after smelling acrid smoke in his home in Feilden Drive adjacent to the cemetery.
Incensed by the air pollution caused by the fires Braun investigated the source of the fires and immediately contacted the municipality demanding to know who had given permission for Parks staff to burn cuttings and rubbish.
He said fires were lit on Friday morning, Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, all windy days with the north easterly wind fanning the smoke away from the cemetery towards Carrington Heights and Glenmore.
“In other words, staff on the opposite side of the cemetery had no smoke while thousands of families on the other side of Feilden Drive were subjected to choking conditions for hours at a time,” said Braun who took video footage and photos of the fires.
On Sunday, the area was deserted as the fire spread through undergrowth and set two separate piles alight.
“A metro truck can be seen driving away at the end of one of the clips, leaving the three fires they’d started unattended. I believe this abandonment of a purposeful fire may be considered arson,” he said, adding that about two weeks ago there had been a fire that had polluted the air from horizon to horizon for at least 12 hours.
“I’m not sure of the source, but it is part of a worrying trend where we are breathing polluted air more frequently. I feel we can either accept it or fight to correct it. I choose the latter,” he said.
Berea Mail joined Braun on Monday when he approached two Parks Department staff working in the cemetery who admitted they had been told to cut vegetation and burn it.
Among the piles of hacked vegetation were plastic bags containing rubbish with further piles of litter underneath the undergrowth containing plastic packets and bottles which Braun said are carcinogenic.
He said education about the harmful consequences of smoke inhalation needed to be highlighted more proactively by the city to both its employees and residents.
“Does the city conduct ongoing education to let its employees know how they’re harming themselves and other residents by burning vegetation and man-made products? It appears these staff members are totally ignorant of the dangers,” he said.
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Following correspondence with the municipality, the Manager of Amenities within Parks responded to say she had visited the cemetery on Monday morning and noted the tree cuttings that were set on fire.
She advised the staff to stop burning, and remove all tree cuttings to the landfill site by Friday next week.
“Air is something we all need and the cleaner the better. Clean air should be a given, not a pleasant surprise. The respiratory cancers that Durbanites will suffer in 10 to 30 years time will have been created today. That is something we need to do our utmost to prevent. I ask Durbanites to think carefully about the use of wood and other fires. They may smell good, but they do put thousands of chemicals into the air. Not everyone wants to breathe in your fire smoke. So let’s think socially, and not light up,” he said.
As a keen permaculturist, Braun advised the municipality that he would also be happy to suggest eco-friendly solutions for the Parks Department to completely refrain from using burning to clear areas.
“This leaves areas of barren ground that are more prone to erosion and re-infestation by alien plants,” he said.
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