By DOROTHY CHISI – IT is a well known fact that garbage disposal in peri-urban areas in Zambia is a challenge arising from a lack of proper solid waste management.
Experience has shown that people dump waste near neighbour’s houses or in their back or front yards.
Others go to the extent of disposing of garbage by road sides, on footpaths, in drainage systems and in nearby streams.
The Public Health Act Cap 295 gives the councils’ responsibility to prevent and control the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases like cholera.
Under this Act, disposing of waste in such a way has the potential to cause disease or some other hazard to health, which is an offence.
Local authorities have the responsibility to ensure that people do not dump waste indiscriminately.
The law empowers the local authorities to correct any action or omission that it thinks creates a nuisance.
Zambia has been experiencing the problem of lacking proper solid waste management, a situation that has resulted in drainages being clogged by the wastes, creating floods during the rainy season, and also water-borne disease such as cholera.
The current solid waste management system does not provide a clear roadmap on the management of solid waste as evidenced by piles of garbage lying uncollected in certain parts of major cities.
Additionally, the Zambia Environment Management Agency (ZEMA) and the local authorities are supposed to implement the law on solid waste management.
But it has been noted that the capacity to adequately enforce the law on solid waste management and implementation of various national solid waste management strategies remains weak.
It is estimated that over 50 per cent of the waste generated is not collected, transported nor disposed of in a manner that will minimise the potential negative impact of solid waste.
This uncollected solid waste continues to pile up and find itself in undesignated places, causing a lot of harm to the environment and putting people’s lives at risk.
The public needs to understand that solid waste management is one of the most important and expensive services that requires support at all levels because when a calamity occurs, it is bound to affect everyone.
Local Government Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga said people should take it upon themselves and become champions of the necessary paradigm shift that no longer views waste as merely a by-product of society’s economic and social activities to be dealt with by the Government.
He said solid waste management should rather be something from which both the private and public sectors can derive economic opportunities.
Mr Malupenga said the Government is committed to transforming waste into a resource aimed at improving the economy.
“Fostering sustainable development and reducing people’s vulnerability from the risk of climate change, natural and man-made disasters and environmental degradation are key pillars under the framework of the Seventh National Development Plan,” he said.
He observed that solid waste management is a growing challenge for city authorities in several developing countries.
Large amounts of the solid waste generated in trading areas during working hours involves different types of waste which is not being properly managed.
The waste might have detrimental effects on the environment, people’s health and the ecosystem.
ZEMA Director General John Msimuko says the changing human consumption patterns and economic activities are contributing to the generation of various types of waste that require sustainable management.
Mr Msimuko says waste has been recognised and utilized as a resource that can result in significant employment creation.
He explains that ZEMA remains committed to providing regulatory guidance in waste management in the country.
Mr Msimuko said the future is bright in the recycling industry and that is one of the reasons why the agency has refrained from completely banning the use of plastics.
He said ZEMA has put the responsibility of plastics and other recyclable materials on companies that put solid waste on the market.
He said the agency would like to take the responsibility of dealing with the waste because total ban of certain material, such as plastic, is not sustainable for the economy.
Western Province Permanent Secretary Sibanze Simuchoba noted that waste management is a growing challenge for local authorities in the country as well as other countries.
Mr Simuchoba said the increase in solid waste is as a result of rapid growth in economic activity and population.
He, however, noted that the Government is committed to delivering an efficient waste management system to contribute towards the physical well-being and comfort of the people.
The permanent secretary said the Government wants to turn the negatives into positives by using solid waste as a resource to create jobs.
International Labour Organisation (ILO) Programme Manager Evans Lwanga said ILO’s interest is to identify opportunities for job creation in solid waste management.
Mr Lwanga said if well managed, solid waste could be turned into a resource that could create employment and improve lives of many citizens.
Lusaka Mayor Wilson Kalumba said the Lusaka City Council (LCC) does not have the financial capacity to manage solid waste.
Mr Kalumba said waste management never received funding from Government and, therefore, the council revenue streams were not sufficient to sustain such an undertaking.
He said waste management is very expensive, hence the need for cooperating partners to work with the local authority to maintain the current status of the city.
“Waste management needs to fund itself; it should be run as a separate entity which should be able to raise resources for its implementation,” he said.
He said everyone should register with solid waste management firms and avoid indiscriminate waste disposal.
The Lusaka mayor said the local authority would involve communities in waste management as a sure way of preventing indiscriminate waste disposal.
In 2017, Turkish International Co-operation and Co-ordination Agency (TIKA) expressed readiness to assist Zambia with technical training in waste management for technocrats in local authorities and ZEMA.
TIKA Coordinator of Education and Training Projects Mustafa Hasim Polat said his organisation is prepared to provide technical expertise to impart concepts on waste management.
He said TIKA would facilitate a training of trainers (TOT) course in Turkey as a starting point in equipping Zambia with advanced waste management skills.
Charge d’ Affaires at the Zambian Mission in Ankara, Bwalya Nondo, noted that solid waste is a serious threat to the environment and a hazard to human health./
Mr Nondo said Turkey’s assistance in building capacity to manage solid waste would be most appreciated.
He indicated that the Zambian mission in Ankara would also engage municipalities in Turkey to explore the possibility of city-twinning, which would result in benefits such as technical assistance to enhance solid waste management in Zambia.
Mr Nondo also stressed the need to give waste management a business dimension through investment in the recycling industry.
Solid waste management can play an important role in achieving some of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through generating employment and improve public health and protection of the environment.
Zambia needs to come up with a holistic and sustainable solid waste management system that will result in the efficient collection, storage and disposal of garbage in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.
Therefore, the involvement of all stakeholders is paramount in order to find lasting solutions to the problem of lack of solid waste management.
It should be noted that everyone generates waste every second, and hence it is important that everyone becomes part of the solution by participating in keeping the environment clean and free from harmful substance that can cause diseases.