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Living, working, dining and dying in a stinking city

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by Ujengelele, Sep 26, 2010.

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    Ujengelele JF-Expert Member

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    Living, working, dining and dying in a stinking city

    By Guardian on sunday team

    26th September 2010

    [​IMG] The tales of emerging Dar�s nightmare

    Some workers collect garbage at one of the sites in Temeke yesterday. Photo: Selemani Mpochi

    Out of the blue, people drew their handkerchiefs and covered their mouths. Some closed their businesses, abandoned their petty trade and fled in different directions. Yet others who had been chatting in the shadows of trees hardly moved.
    Not spared were residents of houses in the vicinity, who sought refuge metres away. The fleeing residents were running from the foul smell emanating from an informal dumpsite along Science Road in Dar es Salaam city’s Kijitonyama suburb, after a truck had swerved from the road and gotten stuck in the mound of garbage and refuse.
    After a quarter of an hour or so, when the smell had eased somewhat, some of the people who had sought temporary ‘asylum’ in relatively tolerable locations returned, and it was business as usual. But the ‘disturbance’ that the wheels of the truck had caused only made matters worse for those living in proximity of the dumpsite; otherwise, the torture they endure due to the foul smell is routine.
    The dumpsite started as a small pile some three months ago, but progressively it has grown bigger and is posing a greater health hazard and an irritant to residents and those running businesses in the vicinity. The victims are desperate because there are no indications that the garbage will be cleared, an all too familiar reality for most of Dar es Salaam's residents.
    Managing garbage and pollution in Dar es Salaam, a home to over four million people, is proving to be an increasingly daunting task, thanks to dilapidated infrastructure and corrupt city council management.
    The city generates over 4000 tonnes of waste a day, of which only 35 to 40 percent is hauled to designated disposal sites.
    Though the city and municipal councils have sought public private partnerships to manage the garbage in the nation's commercial capital, the situation is getting worse by the day.
    According to a survey by the UN-Habitat done in 2007, sanitation provision in Dar es Salaam is grossly deficient, as in most cities in sub-Saharan Africa: most people do not have access to a hygienic toilet and large amounts of faecal waste are discharged into the environment without adequate treatment. This is likely to have major impacts on infectious disease burden and quality of life in the city, the survey found.
    A World Bank survey established in 2007 that less than 10percent of households have a sewage connection, about 20 percent (mostly in upper- and middle-income groups) have septic tanks, while the remainder are dependent on pit latrines. The WB survey further found that in low-income informal settlements about 92% of households use latrines, mostly traditional unlined pits. Seasonal “flushing” of latrines (i.e. deliberate use of floodwater to flush the contents of latrines) is frequent in low-income districts and the top of latrines is often raised about 1 metre above the ground.
    In Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital and the face of the nation, poor city planning, corruption and dilapidated infrastructure has allowed the garbage and filth to rise, hurting the city's reputation and international image. In 1994, when the American singer Michael Jackson visited Dar es Salaam, he covered his nose and said publicly that the city was stinking.
    A few years later, President Mkapa’s regime suspended the Dar es Salaam City council, and formed a special task force led by Charles Keenja to manage city affairs. The task force managed to improve the city’s conditions a great deal before it was abolished in order to allow the democratically elected but bureaucratic councilors to control the city and municipal council again.
    Today nearly a decade has passed, but it seems Dar es Salaam is steeped in garbage as usual. When President Kikwete took over in 2005, Vice President Ali Mohamed Shein made ten crucial announcements, which among other things stated clearly that plastic bags were banned with immediate effect as part of a clean-up and conservation effort in Dar es Salaam. But, five years down the line, plastic bags still decorate the city and the authority seems to be overpowered by polluters.
    Hussein Rashid, a 25-year-old who has worked for two garbage disposal companies in the city, told The Guardian on Sunday that for three years now, he has been an employee of InterClean Service, a company contracted by the Kinondoni Municipal Council to clear garbage in Kijitonyama and the neighbouring Makumbusho area.
    Originally a strong, healthy young man, Hussein has been reduced to a weak, sickly creature whose life now revolves around prolonged bouts of coughing and diarrhea, occasioned by bacterial infections from decomposed garbage.
    He says he started suffering from severe headache and stomach pains on August 2, 2010 and, after undergoing tests at Mwananyamala hospital, he was diagnosed with typhoid fever.
    Hussein, who earns a paltry Sh120,000 monthly salary, was admitted at the hospital for one and a half months and then nursed himself at home for another month. When disease struck, he had no money and had to borrow some Sh90,000 from friends to cover treatment costs.
    “The working environment is very bad; imagine picking the carcasses of animals and birds like dogs, cats and chicken with bare hands!” he said.
    Hussein says the workers lack vital tools like gumboots and gloves. For three years previously, he was employed by Bugonzi Service Company, a garbage cleaning outfit, but he quit due to its failure to provide proper working tools for its staff. InterClean replaced Bugonzi, but to Hussein’s utter shock, it was run by the same management and had merely changed names without improving the working conditions. He likened the situation to someone donning a new suit without taking a bath.
    “Same management, same poor working tools, but new company name; it is a big shame," he said.
    In spite of the anger and shock, however, Hussein stayed put for the sake of earning a livelihood, since alternative employment opportunities were hard to come by.
    Claude Ligunda, 36, a resident of Mwanayamala, is also a victim of random dumping sites. He has just been discharged from Mwananyamala hospital for diarrhea and is now recovering from a fungal infection at home. He started feeling very severe pains, along with fever and diarrhea. Ligunda became ill while working along Science Road as a car washer. He explained that whenever it rained, the dumpsite produced noxious smell and rivulets of filth that ran through his work-site, before ending up in the compounds of residential houses.
    Severine Nalisisi is a driver who has worked with various city cleaning companies for a couple of years, and he says the whole of Kijitonyama area lacks adequate dumpsites, and the disposal contactors lack adequate human resources and proper working tools. As a result, he says, many residents collect garbage in bins, boxes and plastic bags, which they dump along the road at night.
    “Imagine; we are only five workers and don’t have gloves and gumboots. If one or two of us falls ill, the work stops for nearly one week but the production of fresh garbage continues of course,” he says. Severine faults municipal officials for not being scientific in their approach, citing a few cases of petty fines for those who violate cleanliness regulations, instead of addressing the lack of formal dumpsites and suitability of garbage disposal companies.
    Reached for comment, the InterClean Service Company director, Mr. Kamugisha, was hostile, angrily saying that the dump-site along Science Road was a temporary collection point. Executive officers for Makumbusho and Kijitonyama suburbs were similarly hostile, declining to reveal their names or to comment on the issue.
    But when they realized that The Guardian on Sunday was pursuing a story on garbage collection, they panicked, made some contacts, and shortly afterwards, a truck was driven to the dumpsite and a team of men frantically cleared the garbage.
    A survey by The Guardian on Sunday around the city revealed that many executive officers are either lazy or corrupt, and can’t supervise companies contracted to dispose of garbage.
    As a result, many streets and feeder roads are gradually turning into dumping sites. Garbage from pubs, groceries, food left-overs and rotting fruits are thrown along the road and in trenches due to lack of dumping sites and effective cleaning contractors to carry out the clean-up exercise.
    It is apparent that when it comes to waste management, the city authority is woefully underperforming. This is life in Bongo, where you work, live and dine in a stinking city. In a rapidly globalised world, managing garbage is proving difficult as most cities like Dar es Salaam are faced with rapid growing population, industries but with poor infrastructure to handle the waste solid produced by this combination of productive forces.
    According to Eric Achankeng from University of Adelaide Globalization has raised some troubling concerns for the developing world, including Africa. One such concern is its impact on urbanization and the ramifications that go with it.
    Cities are traditionally engines of social modernization and economic growth and at the same time the theatres in which globalization stages its actions.
    For Africa this has meant fueling the already unprecedented urban growth phenomenon and increasing the challenges that go with it. One key challenge is the management of municipal solid waste. Globalization has been identified as playing a negative role in solid waste management.
    In its research titled, “Globalization, Urbanization and Municipal Solid Waste Management in Africa” Achankeng’ says Municipal solid waste management constitutes one of the most crucial health and environmental problems facing governments of African cities.
    This is because even though these cities are using 10-30 percent of their budget in solid waste management, only 20-50 percent of the waste is collected. The uncollected or illegally dumped wastes constitute a disaster for human health and the environmental degradation.