In November last year, Kampala glittered, following a facelift ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). A year after, The New Visionâ€™ Frederick Womakuyu examines the state of the infrastructure and the city cleanliness.
The preparations for CHOGM put a magnificent sparkle on the streets of Kampala. Today, if one of the visitors returned, they would get lost.
The city lies choking beneath tonnes of uncollected, unmanaged waste, while its residents live unwittingly on the brink of health and environmental disaster.
Kampalaâ€™s garbage problem is an absurd tragedy representing a history o f over-consumption and civic failure. From Queenâ€™s way, Nakivubo channel, to Kalerwe, Nalukolongo, Bugolobi, the markets, as well as the City centre, the grim reek of garbage is a constant embarrassment that not only blurs the cityâ€™s image but also poses serious danger for visitors and residents alike.
So folks, what went wrong after CHOGM?
According to Michael Mudanye, Kampala City Council solid waste engineer, the city generates an estimated 1,500 tonnes of garbage a day, three quarters of which rots uncollected on pavements, streets, sewerage outlets and water ways.
â€œWe collect and dispose of a third of this. The problem is inadequate funds,â€ he says.
â€œDuring CHOGM, money was provided to deal with the garbage but the funding has reduced.â€
A visit to Nakasero market reveals a heap of uncollected garbage and from a distance, a terrible stench welcomes you.
Musa Mugoya, a KCC law enforcement officer at Nakasero market, says the market receives about 1,200 vendors and customers daily, with garbage ranging from banana peels, sugarcane peels to rotten fruits and tins.
â€œWe try our best, but the number of people generating waste is overwhelming,â€ Mugoya adds.
Queenâ€™s way is no different from other garbage-hit areas. the trenches are littered with mineral water bottles and other waste.
Kalerwe is no better â€“ It looks like a dumpsite yet hundreds of people, earn their â€œlivingâ€ here. The market and the side-walks are in a sorry state.
Mudanye says they use about sh7m daily to collect and dispose of about 500 tonnes of garbage.
â€œTo get rid of all the waste, we need about sh21m daily.â€
Every day, garbage trucks scavenge around the city collecting garbage for disposal at the Mpererwe dumpsite.
The dumpsite opened in 1996 has been a potential site for many men and women who earn a living through selling scrap and other recyclable items.
However, most of the garbage is set on fire, releasing toxic gases into the air.
Japan, which incinerates most of its garbage is now grappling with a sharp increase in cancer cases linked to dioxin released by burning plastic. There is neither environmental nor health impact assessments that has been done in Mpererwe.
The effect of constant exposure to the garbage stench and fumes on the residents of Mpererwe is unknown although doctors report a high incidence of respiratory infections around the dumpsite.
Herbert Semakula, the KCC public relations officer said part of the problem is the growing population in Kampala.
â€œMany people are coming to Kampala, looking for better services. As the population increases, the garbage also increases,.â€
â€œWe cannot easily track all the garbage and any addition of more people into the city means our services are overstretched,â€ Semakula adds.
He says the history of waste management in Kampala is a sad tale of lack of co-ordination and poor planning.
As a result, today there are three major responses to dealing with garbage in the city:
At the most basic level are the people who bury, burn and recycle their household garbage in their small gardens, bypassing KCC.
But the city produces an overwhelming amount of waste, and not everybody has their own compound. According to Semakula, more than half of this waste is organic, which is why there about 150 people salvaging on the Mpererwe waste site and take out about four tonnes of waste a day, comprising mainly waste paper, scrap metal, cardboards and plastic.
These community groups are few and under-appreciated, as Maurice Mugenyi of Environmental Consultancy Services International will attest. He says their efforts only get noticed if their work happens to find its way into the press.
â€œTypically in Uganda, recycling is done out of desperation, run by poor women operating in slums. They lack the skills and resources to standardise or market their products,â€ Mugenyi said.
At the third level are the private collection companies. They have made progress since they joined city garbage collection in 2000.
â€œSome have been genuine and others have messed up in the collection of garbage. Many concentrate their efforts in one part of the city and have abandoned the outskirts where garbage is also a problem,â€ Mugenyi says.
There are now, by city hallâ€™s count, 43 garbage collection companies in Kampala five of which are owned by KCC and are located mostly in its divisions.
Mugenyi says the problem is that there are few, if any, links among these three levels of waste management.
â€œEach operates alone, rarely improving or expanding operations. As a result, most of the cityâ€™s garbage goes uncollected. About 1,000 tonnes of the total 1,500 tonnes of garbage that the city generates each day stays where it is dumped.â€
But KCC believes the future is bright.
â€œWe have increased the tonnage of late. We now collect about 600 tonnes of garbage every day and this will accelerate with increased funding,â€ Semakula says.
He adds that they have increased sensitisation of the public by use of mass media and sign posts to stop people from dumping rubbish in the wrong places.
â€œKCC has also increased the number of trashbins in the city to avoid littering the streets,â€ he says, adding that they hope the KCC law which calls for a fine of sh20,000 or a jail term will help.
Mudanye says KCC has acquired two bull dozers and two trucks to handle disposal of the garbage at the dumping site.
However, Semakula regrets that if the public does not take part, â€œour efforts will be a dot of ink in an ocean.â€
Kampala a mountain of garbage