Friday, March 1, 2024

Gaborone losing battle against litter

Tucked somewhere in President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) was a brief passage of two sentences that resonated with a sizeable number of residents, especially those who live in urban areas.

“Mister Speaker, one of the challenges that we face as a nation is environmental pollution. It is regrettable that our environment is filthy because of dumping of waste and littering along the roadsides and other public spaces,” said President Masisi.

Gaborone can feel like it has become a huge dump. The city’s normally picturesque neighbourhoods and roads have been transformed into a depressing roadside buffet of rotting food piles on sidewalks, used condoms, soiled diapers, and clinical waste. This is exacerbated by scavenging street dogs which constantly raid bins, causing some of the contents to spill and be blown away onto main roads.

Some residents blame the Council for people dumping trash. They claim that because the Council does not follow a trash pick-up schedule, residents are forced to dump trash along streets and at bus stops.

For City Council’s maintenance teams, who are working hard to keep up with the growing amount of litter in the city, the influx of waste has become an incessant issue. In October, Gaborone City Council (GCC) Deputy Mayor His Worship, Oduetse Tautona acknowledged that the City Council is battling problems with waste management, such as illegal dumping, littering, and the illegal disposal of waste, even as he reaffirmed that the council is working hard to maintain the cleanliness of the city. Although he reiterated that the bins that Railpark management gave to the council in October would go a long way toward resolving this issue, regrettably, most residential areas only have one bin for each household for trash, glass bottles, and plastics.

This is in stark contrast to other countries, where each household has two bins: one with a red lid for general waste and one with a yellow lid for recycling.

The Centre for Applied Research observed that there is insufficient infrastructure for trash management.  A report produced for the Japanese government by Centre for Applied Research the titled “Scoping report for the state of waste management in and around Gaborone.” reads in part: “Gaborone’s waste management does not appear to adhere to this hierarchy as little is done to reduce waste and to stimulate re-use and recycling. As a result, the landfill is under pressure and economic opportunities for re-use and recycling are lost”.

Furthermore, while the Botswana Waste Management Act prohibits people from illegal dumping and littering, penalties under the relevant Act are too low and therefore need to be amended.

“A person shall not deposit in any place anything which may contribute to the defacement of any place by litter, except as authorised by law or done with the consent of the owner or occupier of that place. (2) Subsection (1) applies to any public place and includes the following- (a) any highway or road; or (b) any place within the jurisdiction of a local council. (3) Any person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P300 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two months or to both,” states the Waste Management Act.

Waste management experts say this issue is unlikely to be fixed anytime soon as long as offenders continue to receive a slap on the wrist as punishment for illegally dumping rubbish, assuming they are ever even apprehended.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG12) includes targets focused on environmentally sound management of all waste through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse (targets 12.4 and 12.5). At the current rate, it would be extremely difficult for Botswana to progress on this goal unless there are drastic changes.

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