As humanity starts realising that “Spaceship Earth” is not just our only option for a habitable space in the universe but also that we are choking it to death in multiple ways, we should also begin to take “crimes against the planet” as seriously as crimes against people.
That is because, in reality, a crime against the planet is a crime against its people … and we need to start dealing with offenders in the harshest possible ways. It is a shock to learn that South Africa, the target of so many criminals, both internal and external, may now be in danger of becoming an illegal dumping ground for waste from industrialised countries.
The department of environmental affairs’ environmental management inspectorate, also known as the Green Scorpions, revealed this week that a syndicate is involved in illegally dumping containers of plastic waste from European countries in South Africa. Also being dumped here is oil-contaminated soil.
Both pose a serious risk to our environment. In a number of cases materials are being deliberately mis-declared by importers. The areas most affected by undetected unlawful waste were disposal sites in KwaZulu-Natal and in Cape Town.
Some of the illegal waste has been recovered and sent back and the Green Scorpions are working with Interpol to crack down on the deliberate dumping of European hazardous waste across Africa.
The authorities must do more, though, than issue fines for the smugglers – they must change the law to provide for jail sentences. This is because these crimes can cause irreversible damage to our environment and, therefore, affect the lives of millions of people … as well as our children and grandchildren to come.
We have a duty to care for the only home we have – and we must not shirk that duty.