Garbage: Zim's perennial urban eyesore

HARARE - Itai (not her real name) was walking along Tsoka Road in Zengeza 1, Chitungwiza when a plastic bag thrown from a house adjacent hit her.

The missile landed squarely on her nose, bursting immediately and splashing her with the putrid stench of rotting sadza.

She had nothing with which to wipe her face and smelly dirt trickled freely down her face spoiling her white outfit. She had to sprint back home dejectedly and wash up as well as change her now dirty clothes.

Itai quickly turned along an alleyway leading into Tsukukuviri Crescent and disappeared into her parents’ house.

Like in most Zimbabwean urban areas, the refuse truck had not come that morning although residents had placed an assortment of bins out on the streets.

The problem of refuse collection has dogged many local authorities for some time now.

Councils and residents are quick to engage in a blame game, at the cost of finding early solutions to pertinent problems.

The bottom line is that there should be collective effort in developing effective solid waste management systems.

Public engagement and involvement, together with firm by-laws in solid waste management are

important aspects, especially given the growing littering and illegal dumping taking place around us today.

It is also important for councils to educate residents in their areas of jurisdiction on solid waste disposal as well as the impacts of uncollected garbage on communities’ health.

Although educational campaigns may seem costly for most local authorities that are struggling to meet service delivery expectations against dwindling revenue, a lot of cash is saved in the long term.

Cleanliness is next to godliness. An environment that is dirty is a breeding place for disease.

Harare and Chitungwiza have fallen victim to cholera, typhoid and other diarrhoeal afflictions in the past and should lead interventions against a recurrence of these avoidable calamities.

Besides solid waste emanating from residential areas, other refuse comes from commercial operations. Wholesale and retail outlets, health services, restaurants that use kaylite trays, bill posting for entertainment and church events and cell phone recharge cards among others are some of the major sources of solid waste.

Councils must choose appropriate technologies that sustain waste management operations in their areas and not adopt models from other systems that are not suitable for their situations.

This is so because local authorities are not homogenous and as such they require different models and strategies to mitigate the solid waste management menace.

Residents of Harare and Chitungwiza have not been receiving refuse bins as regularly as before owing to a multiplicity of factors.

However, the sacks they have improvised with, which are often carried away by refuse collection trucks, have been the source of major conflict with residents who have to find another sack as soon as the refuse truck leaves the neighbourhood.

Owing to resource constraints, some municipalities use trucks that are not suitable for the purpose, hence they take away the sacks together with the refuse, to ensure the garbage does not fall off the trucks.

A long time ago, bins were placed along city streets and were emptied regularly, something very unusual these days.

Refuse must be collected regularly. Today, bins fill up and nobody cares to empty them.

At Charge Office Bus Terminus in Harare, like most other bus termini, the skip bins provided are always full to capacity with garbage spilling onto the streets.

Time and again, the assortment of refuse in the skip bins is always burning, emitting thick fumes of smoke into the atmosphere choking passersby in the process.

Other bus termini — Fourth Street, Speke Avenue, Market Square including most shopping centres in the high-density suburbs — have skip bins but these are not emptied regularly.

Lamenting the deteriorating delivery by municipalities, Gogo Mhungu, popularly known as VaChihera in the neighbourhood, said there was a complete departure from the refuse collection modalities used back then. “We have been here for a long time but we knew for certain that the refuse truck would come once every week. We did not live with garbage like we are being forced to these days. There is something very wrong somewhere,” she said.

Green Africa Network director Godfrey Mandaga says most local authorities fail on solid waste management because they use deficient operational systems as well as rely on staff without appropriate backgrounds in key portfolios.

“Service efficiency is dependent on operational systems which, in most cases, are nonexistent in several municipalities. What is required as a first port of call is to realign management systems that have been clogged by political-administrative conflicts.”

Mandaga added that residents must begin demanding service reviews so that the issue of engagement is realised.

“The municipality and the communities are working in isolation, the level of engagement and participation needs to be improved so that both municipalities and residents share all relevant information that should enable transformation in accounting for service delivery.

“The urban communities continue to show discomfort because service delivery is not reflective of the resident’s expectations.

For this reason, residents should begin participating in municipal business, though we are living in a busy society today, as long as residents are not in touch with municipal practices and procedures, there is no way municipalities are going to see the urgency of aligning their public service mandate,” he said.

If the situation does not improve, it is local authorities that bear the brunt of their shoddy service delivery as continued environmental health problems become prevalent through seasonal disease outbreaks.

The quality of our raw water will continue to deteriorate since illegal waste shall continue finding its way into our surrounding water sources.

Urban populace are, in the long run, prone to respiratory diseases as more and more mixed wastes are burnt as a way of reducing accumulating waste but in the future, the effects shall catch up with communities as deteriorating environmental health will mount pressure on municipal health services in urban areas.

Continued poor revenue collection will also become the order of the day, as willingness to pay municipal services shall decline significantly.

Councils are losing revenue from waste because they are not making good use of waste.

Municipalities can generate and save lots of revenue if they can invest in renewable energy projects.

Everyday raw sewage and solid waste is polluting our environment when we can harness this waste to generate clean energy and bio-fertiliser, which can benefit our agriculture. 

Electricity is something our modern society needs everyday and it is about time we convert what we no longer want into what we need.

Speaking at the launch of the Harare CBD clean-up, Environment minister Savior Kasukuwere summed up government commitment to ensuring a clean environment.

“As individuals, companies or institutions let us not discard, dump or leave litter at undesignated places as this leads to the unsightly conditions and storm drain blockages resulting in flash floods that we have seen lately in the City of Harare,” he said.

Zimbabwe needs to move away from challenges being posed by waste management and embrace the opportunities.


Comments (4)

What do you expect? A 91 year old half living fossil leads the country!

Phaphamani - 21 February 2015

'Speaking at the launch of the Harare CBD clean-up, Environment minister Savior Kasukuwere summed up government commitment to ensuring a clean environment. “As individuals, companies or institutions let us not discard, dump or leave litter at undesignated places as this leads to the unsightly conditions and storm drain blockages resulting in flash floods that we have seen lately in the City of Harare,” he said.'----------- HA! Come on minister, we need action not a lot of speeches. We need to see you in your overalls and gumboots, joining council workers in cleaning out the city's drains. In fact your ministry can start with cleaning out the huge drain under Julius Nyerere which runs from NSSA to discharge into the ditch alongside Seke road. This drain is clogged with a cement formed from ash, kaylite containers and sodden wrappers which are dumped into drains by street kids and vendors. But before you get out the drills to break up this stuff, beware! There are pythons in this drain...

mr speakerr - 22 February 2015

Talk Is CHEAP . Minister show leadership by doing what Mr Chinotimba did by putting on overalls and boots to lead a clean-up team.

Godfrey Stone - 2 March 2015

@morkal give it a rest, we are tired of all this cheap spamming.

spannas - 14 March 2015

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.