From Sunshine City to garbage town

Vendors sell their wares at Speke (Copa Cabbana) commuter omnibus rank oblivious of the uncollected garbage. — Picture by Lovemore Meya

Vendors sell their wares at Speke (Copa Cabbana) commuter omnibus rank oblivious of the uncollected garbage. — Picture by Lovemore Meya

Sydney Kawadza Senior Features Writer
Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, has a sad story of waste that it is struggling to contain.

Waste has become the bad side of Harare. Its generation has become so bad that the Harare City Council seems to have partly given up in some areas. Waste generation seems to exceed council’s capacity to collect and convey it to the dumpsites.

Indignation, exasperation and ire best describe the feeling of the residents. They feel hard done by council with some residential areas going for months without refuse collection services.

Residents are forced to dump waste on street corners. In the central business district, “mountains” of uncollected waste continue to grow by the day. According to the Institute for Waste Management of Southern Africa, waste at the household level, consists of biodegradable materials: paper, gravel, metal and glass are recoverable, reusable and recyclable.

Harare Residents Trust spokesperson Mr Melusi Ncube said council was struggling to manage the waste. He said council had also failed to communicate its challenges to the residents while the situation deteriorates further.

“Council has not been very responsive to the concerns raised by ratepayers . . . repeatedly churned out excuses like broken down vehicles yet they continue to award each other huge unsustainable salaries. They have also been purchasing new luxury vehicles for their senior management,” he said.

Mr Ncube said council was failing to prioritise service provision while pampering senior management with benefits against modern work management trends.

The refuse collection schedule supplied by the Harare City Council and covers all the 46 wards is divided according to type of property. The type of property influences the frequency of refuse collection.

Council should collect refuse on a weekly basis in industrial and residential areas. In the CBD and hotels, refuse must be collected on a daily basis whereas at shopping centres refuse collection must take place three times a week.

“The HRT can boldly say that the council has failed to adhere to their so-called dedicated refuse collection schedule resulting in untoward garbage piling in different corners across the city,” Mr Ncube said.

There is a heap of uncollected garbage that has been piling up at the Market Square Terminus for three months. At the Speke (Copa Cabana) Bus Terminus, near the public toilet, the dumpsite has been growing since April.

At the Rezende Mall Bus Terminus there is a huge dumpsite which has been growing since the beginning of May. Mr Ncube said residents were forced to pay for refuse collection which never took place. He said residents were being exposed to health hazards.

However, council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said they expected the situation to improve very soon. “We are awaiting delivery of 30 new garbage trucks. Council recently got approval from Government to borrow up to $30 million for plant and equipment renewal.

“We have since placed our orders with the suppliers. Council expects the new vehicles in a couple of days.” Mr Chideme said the council was repairing its old fleet while trying to make the most of the vehicles on the road.

“We call upon residents and ratepayers to also pay their bills on time so that we are always capacitated to provide satisfactory service,” he said. “All our services are funded by the users and recipients of our municipal services,” he said.

Mr Chideme said council needs 15 skip bin trucks and have since ordered 10 trucks to replace the aged fleet.

He said council was also embarking on a bin verification exercise at all commercial buildings in the CBD after realising that shop owners are not providing enough bins at their premises.

“They end up using temporary waste collection points reserved for street cleaners hence the growing mounts of garbage in the CBD,” he said. According to the Environment Management Authority, solid waste refers to discarded materials other than fluids and gases.

“It includes municipal garbage, agricultural refuse, demolition and industrial waste as well as mining residues,” EMA says.

“Increasing population, rapid urbanisation, industrial growth, the construction boom, improved lifestyle and unsustainable consumption patterns have all contributed to the growing solid waste problem.”

Sources of solid waste, according to EMA, include supermarkets, illegal vendors, households, hospitals, clinics and surgeries. Others are manufacturing and processing industries, food industries, residential areas, motor industries and the construction industry.

The negative impacts of waste include land pollution, underground and surface water bodies’ pollution and harbouring pathogens. EMA states that on land pollution, waste is an eyesore.

“(It) results in the loss of aesthetic value of land, taking away the beauty of cities and towns. This could have a negative effect on the country’s tourism industry.

“Waste can (also) be washed away into water bodies while leachate can pollute underground water and contaminate the soil,” the agency states. It further states that waste harbours pathogens, hence promoting the spread of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and malaria. “Waste is a breeding ground for disease spreading vectors such as flies, mosquitoes and rats.

“Blockage of water and sewer drains by litter and non-biodegradable material leads to the spread of water borne diseases such as typhoid,” it says.

Solid waste management is governed by the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27), Statutory Instrument 6 of 2007 Environmental Management (Effluent and Solid Waste Disposal) Regulations and Statutory Instrument 98 of 2010 (Plastic Bottles and Plastic Packaging) Regulations.

Thus, EMA prohibits the discharge or disposal of any waste in a manner that causes pollution to the environment or ill health to residents.

It further prohibits the discarding, dumping, and leaving litter on any place except in containers or places provided for that purpose. Citing a study by the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Zimbabwe in 2008, EMA says Zimbabwe produces 150 000 tonnes of waste per year.

According to the study, 70 percent of this is food waste. “Unfortunately 90 percent of the total waste we generate as a country finds its way to municipal dumpsites with only 10 percent being composted, recycled or re-used,” EMA says.

The agency, however, believes this can be rectified. “We can drastically reduce the amount of biodegradable waste by cooking food that we finish, composting and separating waste at source for collection by recycling companies.”

In a study published in the Journal of American Science titled: A Situational Analysis of Waste Management in Harare, Zimbabwe, scholars Rodney G Tsiko and Sydney Togarepi said the governance of waste management in Harare was closely associated with the evolution of its local-government systems with each phase having had its own influence on waste management systems.

“The seeds of the apparent chaos in the governance of waste in Harare were laid during the colonial period. “Urban infrastructure and services were concentrated in areas designated for non-African races, whereas the native suburbs were left more or less on their own.”

They further state that despite many ordinances put in place by the colonialists, they regarded native suburbs as areas for a cheap and easily controlled labour force.

“Therefore, (they) made no serious efforts to resolve the emerging problems, particularly those of waste management.” Tsiko and Togarepi say the uneven distribution of resources for refuse collection and disposal services persists to date.

According to the research paper, areas such as Mabvuku, Tafara, Chitungwiza, Highfield, Kuwadzana, Mbare and Mufakose can go for up to six months without refuse collection.

Residents in these areas, they say, rate poorly the reliability of council’s waste collection services.

The residents also have reservation about the payments they are making given this poor quality of services. “High density areas (have been) reporting less frequent refuse collection services compared to the higher income low density areas, despite being in the same local authority.

“Council is no longer supplying residents with the most basic receptacles. “As a result, households have resorted to using private collectors or alternative methods, such as digging pits inside their yards, burning waste and illegal dumping on roadsides and open space . . .”

Tsiko and Togarepi say their research demonstrated beyond doubt that the waste problem in Harare had become a cross cutting issue with no immediate solution.

“It is also now clear that the management of waste is an expensive operation and is becoming increasingly costly as a consequence of rapid population growth in the city. “Although undealt with, waste is a visible testament to failure in local governance, this is not a unique problem.”

The Southern African Development Community on Environment and Sustainable Development identifies waste management as one of the challenges to development in the region.

In addressing the challenges, Sadc has committed to promoting sound environmental management through pollution control, waste management and environmental education.

“Waste management is one of the priority issues affecting the Sadc region. “The rising quality of life and high rates of resource consumption patterns have had an unintended and negative impact on the urban environment. “They have resulted in generation of wastes beyond the handling capacities of the majority of waste management authorities.”

The regional bloc notes that the majority of cities are now grappling with the problems of high volumes of waste, low capacity to management and the high costs involved in the management.

“This is further exacerbated by the lack of proper disposal technologies and methodologies, inadequate manpower and equipment. “This coupled with poor enforcement results in rampant illegal dumping of domestic and industrial waste that is a common practice.

“This has had serious health and environmental impacts resulting from littering, generation of foul smell and proliferation of pests and insects that transmit diseases.”

The Sadc secretariat is developing a regional programme on waste management which is still being finalised. The Harare City Council deals with approximately 1 100 tonnes (approximately a million kilogrammes) of garbage, which is conveyed to the Pomona Landfill on a daily basis.

The 1 100 tonnes of garbage generated in Harare daily is twice that found in Johannesburg. The waste is collected from all over the city — that is, residential, commercial and industrial.

This finds its way to the Pomona Landfill reserved for municipal solid waste. Hazardous waste from industry is sent to Golden Quarry Landfill in Westlea.

The City of Harare charges high density residents $7,48 monthly for once-a-week refuse collection. In their research article published by the Journal of Environment and Waste Management, Nyarai Mafume and her colleagues, writing on challenges of solid waste management in Zimbabwe: a case study of Sakubva High Density Suburb, recommended that councils should increase equipment to meet the capacity of solid waste collection and disposal.

They urged local authorities to increase refuse human resources to optimum levels.“Councils should increase the number of proper receptacles to cover all areas.

“Councils should encourage recycling, through supplying residents with adequate receptacles, public campaigns and involving users in the planning and collection of waste.”

They also encouraged councils to promote reuse, recycling, composting, or recover materials for use as direct or indirect inputs to new products while improving interaction with residents so that their efforts of waste management are clearly understood.

“This can be done by increasing the visibility of public health officers visiting the residents,” they said.

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  • Kire

    You are absolutely right. How can they pay for refuse collection that is not being collected. They need to hire privately where the job can be done.