Imagine living in a middle-income environmentally-friendly neighborhood where all houses boast the same color with fresh gardens and vehicles sporting waste bags and stickers preaching green tips. Outside, the streets are clearly marked and an estate map is readily available. The roads are clean and well-maintained, and street-lighting is perfectly working. Everything feels fresh and appeals to the eye. It is serene, harmonious, orderly and breath-taking. Well this can only happen if there is an effective solid waste management plan adopted by the people residing in such a neighborhood.
Solid Waste Management is a major problem world-over and in Kenya offers several challenges from clogged drainage and sewers, waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera and diarrhea, respiratory diseases from open burning of the garbage to malaria. Waste management has been the responsibility of the Ministry of environment and natural resources but since the inception of devolution the roles have been decentralized to the county Governments. The scenario is now changing with the realization that county governments are not capable of managing waste on their own.
Like other cities in the world, solid waste management is an expensive venture gobbling up to 30-50% of revenues. This is unsustainable and therefore has seen Kenyan cities and towns end up with endless heaps of garbage dotting the landscape. According to UN Habitat report, solid wastes in Nairobi are as a result of industrial and manufacturing activities which constitute 68 percent of domestic waste. The bulk of the wastes constitute 57%food waste, 13% plastic and 8%paper.
Mismanagement of these wastes result in pollution and contamination of environmental resources. With the current growth rate, the Kenyan population is expected to rise from about 41 million to about 65 million by 2050. This rise will have a drastic impact on the environment, especially in terms of waste management. Consequently, population densities are highly concentrated in low income slum areas where waste management structures are inefficient.
To stem the problem, County Governments have to develop effective Solid Waste Management Plans. This will involve building public-private-partnerships (PPP) including the use of Resident Associations. Successful waste management depends on the regulatory measures taken by the government and populations. Extensive education on how to recycle, reuse, reduce and respond to waste is needed to enable populations understand the importance of sustainable resource use and waste management as well as advocating recycling at point source.
Neighborhoods must embrace the 3R’s (Reduce, Recover and Recycle) concept of solid waste management and several of them have started plastics recycling and composting projects within their estates. For instance the “Tenga Taka Tuimarike Project (Kiswahili for Separate Waste for Prosperity)”, a successful waste management project that was jointly launched by Kara and Practical Action in Plainsview Estate, Nairobi in 2005. Through the project, residents learnt source-separation of waste. The waste is separated in three categories, with recyclable plastics and related waste being placed in yellow bags, organics in green and other waste in brown colored trash bags.
Resident associations can also work closely with local authorities and relevant watchdogs like the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) so as to improve the quality and standard of residential areas through sound environmental waste management. Environmental scouts may be appointed in each neighborhood to ensure policies and laws are followed or implemented by residents.
Resident Associations can also encourage environmental sustainability by establishing a system of household waste disposal mechanisms that provide an alternative source of income for them, as well as creating environmental awareness of the issue. For instance Residents can be educated on sorting out waste at the household level. The household waste, mostly plastic bags, bottles and glasses, will then be collected at a common collection center where they can be purchased by recycling firms at a certain fee, and the money collected every month will provide the association a source of income and thus enable them meet their financial needs and be able to implement various projects.
Successful waste management depends on the regulatory measures taken by the government and populations. Extensive education on how to recycle, reuse, reduce and respond to waste is needed to enable populations understand the importance of sustainable resource use and waste management as well as advocating recycling at point source.
Waste management is a challenge, but people need to find more sustainable solutions to it. That is why it is important for people living in an estate ensure that they form a neighborhood association that can champion their environmental rights and to ensure they receive effective services from the government.