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Garbage, Garbage Everywhere

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Nowadays, residents of Abuja cover their noses and mouths at the sight of the city’s garbage trucks. Their poor attitude to waste disposal is making the residents uncomfortable. “The garbage truck drivers and the people working with them are not doing a good job when collecting the refuse,” said Muhammed Ibrahim, a cabby in Abuja metropolis. “We the waste everywhere as move around because the garbage trucks are not doing a better job.”

True, students of environmental studies in the department of environmental management of Malaysia’s leading research institution, the Universiti Putra Malaysia in a 2013 research on the status of municipal waste management in Nigeria’s federal capital city, Abuja noted that municipal solid waste management constitutes one of the most crucial health and environmental problems that Abuja have to contend with.

This is because as much as 20 to 50 per cent of its annual budget is mostly dedicated to solid waste management whereas not all of the wastes generated within the cities are completely and hygienically evacuated, meaning that most of the city’s approaches to waste management have rather remained unhealthy.

In Abuja, Nigeria’s burgeoning capital city, disposing of waste materials generated by its residents is now becoming quite a weighty task, but equally a necessary one for waste collectors. No doubt, the city has developed its own systems and mechanisms to dispose of domestic and industrial wastes, but such system is simply inadequate for a modern city like Abuja.
Clearly, the weakness of the city’s adopted mode of waste management is perhaps a fragile link in the regulation of waste collection strategies adopted by its licensed private waste collectors. And this apparent weak link now grants legitimacy to unhealthy waste collection practices which seems to suggest that routine waste collection and transportation should happen side-by-side with the city’s daylight activities, all as part of human endeavours without any health implication.

It is now rather a usual practice or tradition in Abuja for residents to wake up to their daily activities and be greeted with putrid smell or drops of waste littering the streets because of poor handling by garbage collectors. They oftentimes leave trademarks of rotten foods and waste water from the compression of solid wastes for city dwellers to know that they had visited and if you are lucky to escape such unhealthy early morning “tonic” from their visits to your home, wait until you get past other parts of the city enroute your destination to get your own daily dosage of the appalling development and then you can conclude that indeed there is simply no escape from the unhealthy acts of Abuja waste collectors.

Through the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), an agency of the Federal Capital Territory Development Agency (FCDA), Abuja regulates and makes laws on sanitary practices amongst others. The AEPB also provides requirements and regulations for disposal of wastes in the city and through licensed private waste collectors, just as the agency strives to keep the city clean and healthy. But the poor handling of the waste by the collectors seems to suggest that the AEPB do not just need to review its regulations on the city’s waste management system but its entire operational mode, as an agency fit enough to manage such critical aspect of a modern city like Abuja.

Of course, environmental experts have overtime posited that disposal of waste in unsanitary or unhygienic conditions can lead to a huge health and environmental problems. Their thoughts however stem from the reality that food waste can be unsightly, unsanitary and smelly and as such can lead to diseases and epidemics if not disposed of properly.

Usually, the tasks of disposing off waste can include three tiers of management which should ordinarily come as a collective responsibility, starting from proper collection and disposal from the home or industries as the primary sources of waste, to careful and healthy collection and haulage by collector trucks, to its deposit and disposal a central disposal and treatment plant which sadly, very few cities in Nigeria have been able to put up.

For instance, Lagos State with its huge population recognises the environmental hazards of failing to manage waste and has thus through its agency, the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) developed a sustainable system of managing waste. Its system has also included in its operation a commercial aspect that seeks to generate revenue from waste.

Unlike Abuja, Lagos has waste pre-treatment plants at various locations such as Abesan, Maryland, Amuwo Odofin, Lekki and Iddo. It equally has ongoing waste management projects at other locations to adequately take care of its waste which LAWMA said still poses considerable challenges owing majorly to human errors and poor road network.

But from studies, Abuja with its population generates about 14,785 tonnage of waste every month but presently has no sustainable waste management system like Lagos.

The city has no sanitary landfill and with just about four waste dumping ground located at Mpape, Ghosa, Ajata and Kubwa as well as a waste water treatment plant at Wupa which is about 35 kilometres away from the city centre, Abuja seems just not ready to take care of its waste, hence, the poor and unhealthy practices exhibited by licensed waste collectors.

As expected, its Mpape, Ghosa, Ajata and Kubwa dumping ground are characterised by indiscriminate dumping on ground surface with no compression. Coupled with such limitations, collection of waste from residents by collection trucks have become so sickening that people now consider the process more of waste scattering than disposal.

Unsightly and Unpleasan

How do you describe a situation like that of Abuja where municipal waste management is rather poor? Rather than at nights or periods when all reasonable human activities are at its lowest ebb, licensed waste collectors in Abuja choose to pick up and transport waste usually in the morning when human activities are very high and people’s choices of physical contacts with such acts are limited.
It is not uncommon to see waste collector trucks jostle with residents on traffic in Abuja, and with disgusting odour discharged from its content, these waste collector trucks make their way to respective dumpsites fouling the air and dispersing debris of solid wastes as a result of overfilled capacities.

“It is simply inappropriate; these could lead to infections, disease outbreak and it is unpleasant to the human health,” Tsokar who lives in the Wuse 2 district of Abuja told THISDAY.
Tsokar said that solid and fluid waste, if left in unsanitary conditions and without proper disposal management, can cause diseases and lead to infections.

He added: “Even epidemics because these open dumpsters become breeding grounds for insects, pests, snakes and rats that can infect people who are close by. If you are observant, you will discover that there are these big rats that forage in these dustbins and perhaps find their way into peoples’ homes.

“Again, the trucks come in mostly in the morning to collect the wastes and each time they come, you don’t need an fortune-teller to tell you that they are within your vicinity or just visited because their trademark waste water with stench smell and portions of solid wastes are scattered around for you to see, majorly from their process of littering the contents of the waste bins, they just disperse the content and don’t bother to tidy them up.

“Even with that, they compress the content and squeeze out waste water on the ground, the stench from the waste water can last for hours until the sun beats it dry or the rain washes it off and so from that you will know that these guys had been here.”
Another resident of the city, Suleiman said that Maitama district where he lives is not exempted from the unhealthy practice, in fact, he said that residents of the city risks contacting various health disorders like skin diseases, eye challenges, diarrhoea, typhoid, scabies, cholera, intestinal parasites from the unsanitary disposal of wastes in Abuja.

Like these residents, environmental experts also explained that with such unhealthy waste disposal strategy, Abuja cannot be said to be interested in harnessing extant potentials that are inherent in sustainable waste management as practiced in several modern cities across the globe.

Apart from the potential in recycling of waste materials, environmental experts explained that electricity generation from thermal waste conversion plants as well as production of NPK fertilizers are some of the options available to AEPB to explore if it truly desires to restructure the city’s waste management practice.

It is perhaps critical to remind the AEPB that unsanitary waste disposal as currently practiced causes environmental pollution and on a small scale, food waste and other garbage from homes that are often poorly collected by collector trucks litter neighbourhoods across the city, leaving it rather messy and unhealthy while industrial wastes which is usually on the large scale choke up and degrade the environment.

The resultant effects of these unhealthy practices are water and air contamination and pollution because even with the waste dumpsites and incineration which the AEPB employs, the city is still under threat of greater environmental problems which could take some time to begin to manifest if not properly handled now.

Usually in urban areas with high density of population and constant business activities, the risks of unsanitary waste disposal is greater but with sustainable steps at both individual and government levels, these challenges which are inevitable considering the consumption appetites of contemporary societies can be overcome.

Dispersing awareness on proper waste management, putting up effective and sanitary dumpsters with proper disposal system as well as regular pragmatic governance of landfills and dump sites, including healthy collection and transportation of wastes could prove to be effective in alleviating the challenges in managing municipal wastes such that instead of dispersing, wastes are properly disposed. Will Abuja make a change?

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 5 Years ago

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