By Simon J. Mone
Completion of sewage treatment facilities at Kinawataka Lubigi, Nakivubo, and Nalukolongo will offer much longed-for relief for people in and around Kampala who, have until now grappled with horrible smell of the its surroundings.
These projects will ease the burden placed on the city’s only sewage treatment plant.
Bugolobi sewage works has, until now, been serving only 7% of Kampala’s households, which has increased significantly over the years. It brings to question how safely Kampala’s other homes are managing human waste.
A majority of the population fall in the middle or low-income bracket, which relies on non-sewer systems. Non-sewer systems being used are pit latrines and septic tanks. As reports reveal, a number of homes, especially in the city’s outskirts lack appropriate toilets.
An indication that open human waste disposal is still being practiced. This is backed by the sight of raw sewage on open land, in drainage channels and along back streets.
While pit latrines are the cheapest, simplest and most widely used alternatives, they have been used albeit with a lot of shortcomings. They attract flies and also generate bad odour. Unlined pits are prone to giving way, which can cause collapse of latrines. Where pit latrines become full, they must be emptied or be replaced with new ones.
It is, however, costly to find space to construct new pit latrines, because land is scarce and it is not sustainable to continue digging up pits everywhere. This is a major impediment to access to basic sanitation for many people.
Besides, proper latrine use to ensure prolonged latrine life depends on; number of users, pit size, and frequency of pit emptying. This means for shared latrines, cleanliness can be seriously wanting, requiring extra care to avoid catching diseases.
Waste emptying trucks are available to ensure that filled-up latrines can be used again, but emptying costs have to be met by households. This is difficult, considering that many households are not willing to pay for emptying services.
Waste management services also need to be properly regulated to check illegal dumping and ensure that faecal waste is managed in the best way possible. In so doing, it eliminates potential health and environmental hazards resulting from poor faecal waste management.
In unlined pit latrines, liquid portion of faecal matter can potentially seep through pit walls into surrounding areas. This increases the potential of groundwater pollution. It is bad for the environmental sanitation. Even though latrine initial costs are low, in the long run it becomes costly to look for space to dig up new pits.
Households that are unable to find fresh land to dig up new pit latrines have no option and are thus forced to seek other options including open human waste disposal.
Open defecation is detrimental to public health. It exposes people to the risk of cholera and diarrhoea. There is also serious sanitation nuisance of unpleasant smell. Absence of proper faecal waste management allows for raw sewage accumulation in open low-lying areas, storm water drains and other wastelands thereby degrading the environment. Little or no data is available to facilitate safe faecal waste management.
The construction of Lubigi will ensure that more households are connected to the city’s sewerage lines. This solves the problem of raw faecal matter disposal on open lands and keeps the environment safe from contamination.
Sewage flow along streets will also be checked. It provides the missing link in faecal waste management and improves Kampala’s raw sewage management.
The writer is a civil engineer
P. O. Box 36045, Kampala, Uganda
Mobile: 0772 676174, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org