Solid waste: Bomb in making

It has been stated in many fora—political, economic and social—that Malawi is a poor country, actually one of the poorest countries. As I also said last time, our presidents have agreed with this fact, although in different ways. While Bakili Muluzi used to openly accept this poverty, Bingu wa Mutharika reasoned that the country as a geographical entity was not poor but its people were. Joyce Banda never wasted time before apologising to the donors after the discovery of Cashgate—the daylight looting from the public purse.

Data has been presented whether in form of GDP, GNP or HDI, all of which give testimony to this fact of Malawi being poor, worse still among the poorest in the world. Effects of being poor are tragic, whether at individual or national level. Economically, poor countries tend not to meet national needs because funds they get is far much less than the needs, not even wants of such countries. I even fear for the current status of our country because I have heard that this year’s annual budget—needs and wants presented in monetary terms—is far much higher than the funds we are able to collect. In other words, in as far as the donors still hide their purse, we are in for more trouble.

I have stated on this column before that some of the services that suffer are sanitation and hygiene-related, which are usually provided by councils at all levels; city, district and municipal. I am still not sure where town council falls here, if it is not a synonym for one of these. Several cases have been presented before on this column pointing to failure of, mainly the city council in managing waste, both solid and liquid.

It has been argued here several times that our councils are ill–funded even in good economic years. I wonder what the situation is like in these times of no donor budgetary support. This has resulted in the cities’ failure to undertake primary services to the satisfaction of the masses.

Unfortunately, this has been apparent only for the cities due to their level of development, translating in more economic activities leaving behind huge wastes to be managed by the councils since they supposedly collect city rates to enable them to provide such services.

At the same time, Malawi as a country has been promoting programmes to build the capacity of district and municipal councils to undertake economic activities which would in the end retain populations in such towns and municipalities, thereby reduce urbanisation in the cities.

Several towns and municipals have really grown beyond expectations. Looking at the economic activities taking place there one would think of trekking back from cities. Examples are Mponela, Kasungu, Nkando, Kamwendo, Jenda and Karonga.

It is, therefore, not surprising that these huge economic activities have resulted in masses of solid waste being generated. Unfortunately, these councils have no capacity at all to manage these wastes. Ask your city buddies, waste management requires huge investments in personnel, machinery and operational costs, not forgetting land resources. How many of these blossoming councils can boast on even one of the mentioned resources.

My advice to district and municipal councils is to immediately check on the amount of waste being generated and start planning for proper management of such solid waste immediately. Otherwise, I see a bomb being nurtured. It will explode right in your face soon. That is when we will hear how district commissioners and municipal CEOs cry. Ask your Kasungu Municipal Council friend. He has no clue on what to do. n

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