Drinking water in four villages in the neighborhood of Kiteezi dumping ground is now unsafe.
By Gerald Tenywa
Until World Environment Day, June 5, in a campaign, Save Lake Victoria, Vision Group media platforms is running investigative articles, programmes and commentaries highlighting the irresponsible human activities threatening the world’s largest fresh water lake. Today, we visit Kiteezi village on Gayaza road and report the plight of the residents.
Batulumawo Kabunga, a councillor in Kiteezi, is outraged after realising that drinking water in four villages in the neighbourhood of Kiteezi dumping ground is now unsafe. This, according to Kabunga is due to contamination of the streams and boreholes by leachate flowing from Kiteezi dumpsite.
“Every morning we pump smelly water from this borehole. People do not have any other alternative because the piped water from Kampala ran out as soon as it was installed, says Kabunga,
According to him, efforts are being made to avoid the contaminated water, but this has not been approved by authorities. He says they usually discard the first 20 jerry-cans, which they pump because it is brown and smelly.
In addition to the contaminated underground water from the boreholes, the leachate from Kiteezi dumpsite is also draining into the streams that go through a chain of wetlands such as Kyanja sitting on 29 acres, Kiteezi gets about 1,000 tons of waste everyday, which is about half the waste generated in Kampala.
Kiteezi means a place where people get ambushed. When the residents accepted the waste collected from Kampala to be dumped in their neighbourhood, Kiteezi played host to another ambush.
While the residents believed the promise of getting employment at a factory that was supposed to turn waste into manure, they have ended up swimming in misery.
Today, a visitor to Kiteezi is ushered into the largest dumping ground in Kampala by a stench. But this is the least of the worries of the residents of Kiteezi dumpsite north of Kampala.
“People who grow bananas thought they would get better yields because they were going to get cheap manure. But this did not happen and when people protested they promised to generate electricity from the garbage,” says Kabunga.
Kabunga pointed that in the past two decades, they have been fed on promises. “I do not believe that manure or electricity can come out of waste because we have been patient for 18 years and nothing good has come out of the dumping site. Kiteezi was not supposed to handle all this waste, but everything including medical waste ends up here. We feel disgusted because waste has turned into a nuisance,” says Kabunga.
About 8,000 people residing in six villages namely Lusanja, Kiteezi, Bumbu, Kabwoko, Kyambogo, Kitetika and Mpererwe have been affected by the dumpsite. The most affected are Mpererwe, Lusanja, Kiteezi and Kabwoko.
Kabunga says the villages are affected by the smell, polluted water and scavenging wildlife including kalooli or marabou storks. “The waste is also attracting pests that have made life a nightmare,” says Kabunga.
He adds that Marabous secrete on their roofs and contaminate rain water which would have otherwise been harvested. Marabou storks are infected with infectious diseases and local residents suspect their chicken are contracting diseases from the birds.
The residents believe eliminating the waste in the village or covering the waste would keep away the birds and scavengers.
A plant where waste is treated before it is disposed of
A closer look at Kiteezi reveals waste sorters also referred to as “scavengers” who have camped at the ground. They roam the dumping site retrieving usable materials. This, according to Dr. James Semuwemba, the head of health and environmental services under Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), is one of the advantages waste has brought to Kiteezi. It has given employment to 381 waste sorters from the villages surrounding Kiteezi dumping ground.
Recycling companies, including the two recently established by Chinese have started exporting the materials such as shredded plastic bottles and plastic bags.
Other sources, including Banada Nswa, say the waste sorters at Kiteezi are exposed to grave risks because the waste is not separated. The clinics and health facilities within Kampala and peri-urban areas do not have incinerators and all their waste goes to Kiteezi. “Kampala needs to manage its waste,” says Banada, adding, “What is valuable should be removed and not be taken to Kiteezi. The waste sorters at Kiteezi show that KCCA is wasting fuel to ferry useful waste from Kampala to Kiteezi.”
Banada explains that Kampala’s waste is not being managed because everything including organic manure is in a mixture widely referred to as “katogo” and dumped at Kiteezi.
“Waste is wealth. Kampala still has high unemployment rates and the waste management would employ many people if authorities took the right steps to manage it.”
He also points out that KCCA has been overwhelmed by the waste at Kiteezi and that with better waste management a smaller volume of waste should be going to the dumpsite.
Corruption in waste management
KCCA has for decades taken a short-cut to waste management. Banada told New Vision that Kiteezi dumping ground does not conform to environmental regulations and standards. “Currently, the leadership is making efforts to address environmental issues, but it will take time,” says Gerald Musoke, the deputy executive director of National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).
“I have not been to Kiteezi in the recent past, but I have also not seen fresh reports concerning improvement.”
In an interview, Jennifer Musisi, the executive director of KCCA says the authority inherited the problems at Kiteezi about two years ago and that they were doing everything possible to address them. “We are aware of the social and environmental problems at Kiteezi,” she says, adding that KCCA is working with NEMA to address the challenges in a more compressive way.
“The water cleaning equipment we are using has deficiencies. The failures of the old technology are going to be addressed,” says Musisi.
Musisi says people at Kiteezi are staying too close to the landfill. This, she says, should not be the case. “What was a rural place two decades ago is now totally different,” she says. “Kiteezi is full and another sanitary landfill is going to be constructed.”
Other sources at an investors meeting at Serena, Lake Victoria blamed earlier efforts on corruption. “A big part of the budget has been addressing waste disposal,” says a source. “Garbage is a “cash cow” to some people who have been overseeing dumping of waste.”
But Musisi stresses that KCCA has hired a team of professionals and fighting corruption tendencies is top on the authority’s agenda in order to improve service delivery.
Every month, Semuwemba says KCCA spends sh300m on waste disposal from different parts of Kampala and management of Kiteezi dumping site. He also says about 1,000 tonnes of waste is removed from Kampala and dumped at Kiteezi.
How the trail of death began
Previously, Kiteezi was sitting on a wetland, which was reclaimed before the dumpsite was established. This, according to Banada, led to contamination of underground water and the leachate oozing from the waste.
The mountain of waste at Kiteezi shows it is becoming too full to take any more waste. According to Semuwemba, another four acres have been purchased from private land owners to expand Kiteezi dumping ground.
This, according to Semuwemba will hold the waste as they plan a modern landfill elsewhere. Kiteezi’s neighbours are still worried. “We thought dumping waste at Kiteezi was winding up, but they are now expanding and spreading pollution,” says Kabunga.
Kampala garbage chocking Kiteezi residents.