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Environment: Is Waste management deyond the capacities of Local Government Authorities?

Jul 12, 2012, 2:42 PM | Article By: Abdou Rahman Sallah

It is gratifying to recognize the efforts of the Local government councils and Municipalities as far as waste management is concerned. Waste management is among the cardinal mandates of these Authorities and has always been a top priority in their annual work plan and budgetary allocations.

Notwithstanding all these efforts, the Local Government authorities are still struggling with the dire problems of waste management, which apparently seems to be beyond their capacities. To better manage waste would require proper understanding of demographic trends including lifestyle, industrialization, and affluence inter alia.

It is also of great relevance to know the quantities of household waste produced in each Local Government Area in order to effectively plan and select the best waste management options and to monitor their performances.

Lack of resources is often blamed for failure to collect all waste produced but, without the basic information about these foregoing facts, waste management will continue to be a problem even with the abundance of resources.

Furthermore, it is imperative to know the composition and the proportions of the various constituents that make up household and industrial wastes.This is important especially when it comes to the final disposal of waste particularly in the planning of sanitary landfills. It will considerably reduce the environmental impacts of the sanitary landfills.

Waste management is a very big problem, a challenge and threat that requires capital intensive interventions coupled with organized and concerted efforts of all stakeholders, with community-based sensitization and enforcement of waste management laws as a foundation for any constructive and successful achievements in this matter.

Indiscriminate household/domestic waste disposal still continues to be to a greater extent a behavioral and attitudinal trait of the majority of our population, whose understanding of the risks of such actions to the environment and the health of the people might be either very low or they are desperate of the infrequent waste collection or the total lack of waste collection and disposal facilities in their areas.

Perforation of fences allowing waste water from bathrooms, toilets and domestic activities is the most common indiscriminate waste water discharges into public streets. However, indiscriminate waste water discharges from laundry and other domestic works are also relatively common features.

Evidences have shown that landlords would not allow waste water from laundry and culinary activities to be discharged into their soakaways because of fear of getting filled up quickly. In several instances, land development regulations are flouted for reasons of economic interest; hence developing more than the regulated 60% of their landed properties. Overflows from septic tanks and soakaways due to cracks and crevices on the walls as well as being full are occasional sights.

Illegal dumping of waste into the streets especially in plastic bags is the most common. Undeveloped plots within growth areas especially where waste trucks are infrequent could serve as illegal dumping sites. Such places also harbor vermin and rodents because of overgrown grasses and uncollected voluminous waste.

A survey in the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) has shown the existence of over 30 major illegal dumpsites. The number of illegal dumpsites within communities and populations is a course for concern. Brown et al conducted a study in 1991 that showed waste generation being at 80,000 tones per annum and only 30, 000 tones are collected.

Even though this was an under-estimation which was based on the experiences of the consultants, but even there, what happens to the 50, 000 tones that were not collected? What is the situation now; two decades following their study?

The waste situation needs a comprehensive social and environmental study in order to better understand the dynamics of waste composition, quantity, management and control to be able to better plan and implement strategic waste management based on informed decisions.

Air pollution emanating from fish smoking and burning of combustible waste is also a course for concern. All forms of uncontrolled and open combustion of waste must be discouraged in growth and populous areas as this could be a serious threat to Public health, the environment including the atmosphere.

All other nuisances includes but not limited to high pitched music, recreational wastes, derelict vehicles (bulky wastes) etc. These are nuisances that are common but seldom complained to the National Environment Agency. Now is the time to tackle these issues before they get overwhelming.

It is clear that the Local Government Authorities do not have the capacity to effectively manage waste in this country. Key to running an efficient and effective waste collection and disposal services, is the required resources in excess of those being provided at present, which might not be within the financial strength of the Local Government Authorities (LGA).

Better understanding of demographic and development trends are also essential. Therefore it would be prudent for the Government to either engage the private sector/investors who are interested in waste management or support the LGAs/Municipalities in terms of resources.

Finally, let us all remember that a healthy environment is key to any socio-economic development.

For any comments, suggestions, pleaswe contact (220)6361340 or email asallah6@yahoo.com