I WANT to begin by thanking the residents of Kampala for the numerous and very encouraging responses I received on my first article on the subject of how we can work together to improve Kampala cityâ€™s standards of hygiene.
It showed me that this city can be clean because the people who live in it care and can change their attitudes and personal habits to ensure that it does.
This time, I would like to, one more time, dwell on the matter of personal responsibility with regard to the cleanliness of our homes and our neighbourhoods, because â€œcharity begins at homeâ€ as the saying goes. We will, next time, tackle the issue of the city authorities charged with garbage management, as well as other matters in the public domain.
As I said before, we must begin by sorting out, and in our homes, the type of waste we generate, and decide how it should be disposed of. There is the obvious and most sensitive waste which is common to all of us â€” the waste generated by our bodies: urine, human excreta and the water we use whenever we wash our bodies.
A good number of Kampala city residents have indoor plumbing and it is supposed to almost automatically and cleanly dispose of this type of waste. Unfortunately, systems break down, especially if they are not maintained properly. It is very important for the householder, or the landlord, to keep their sewage systems well maintained so that this human waste can be transported to a safe place where it can decompose safely and even enrich our environment.
Left to float above the surface of our roads, as is often the case, it becomes a hazard to our health and an ugly, smelly testimony of our inability to manage our waste. Here, I would particularly like to appeal to landlords of some of the old buildings in town to ensure that their sewage systems are repaired or up-graded, to avoid the spillages we commonly see on our city streets. I would also like to appeal to the users of such toilet facilities not to flush material that does not dissolve in water down their toilets.
Then there are large areas of our city where residents use the pit latrine. Constructed properly, and in the right location, the latrine is an efficient way of human waste disposal, if the householder cares to maintain it and clean it and its environs properly. As a matter of fact, the people in the countryside, who have no modem sewage systems and have to rely on pit latrines, do manage them very well and they are cleaner than the city dwellers. Here, we must task the landlords to ensure that their properties have adequate pit latrines and bathrooms, and that when the pits are full, they are promptly emptied, for the sake of the people they charge money to live in their houses.
I have said that there must be laws and by-laws to ensure that communities and individual householders observe strict standards of hygiene. And I have been informed by Local Government that there are laws and by-laws on our books. If such by-laws exist within the city of Kampala, then they must begin to be strictly enforced. Simply because you have built a home and enclosed it within a wall does not give you the right to make the entire neighbourhood suffer with your broken-down sewage system! You are free only so long as your freedom does not encroach on the freedom and well-being of your neighbours. We can only be called a â€œcommunityâ€ if we learn to respect and uphold the rights and freedoms of all those in our neighbourhood.
The second type of household garbage mainly comes from food-processing and food-preparation. The types of foodstuffs we eat tend to produce a good deal of waste â€” for example, banana, cassava and potato peelings are quite bulky. Fresh vegetables and fruits also generate waste product. This is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how we handle these waste products. The wise householder will see value in these bio-degradable products and make manure out of them for his or her flower bed or kitchen garden. The objectionable thing you must not do is to let the house-help throw them outside your hedge, in that â€œno manâ€™s landâ€ which quickly becomes the dumping ground of all the neighbours. Rather, teach your house worker to sort out garbage, burn that which does not rot, and make compost with those which degrade. Then, your problem will be the stuff that is harmful to the environment, such as the bottles and the plastic bags.
I am aware, of course, that wastes such as plastic bags and plastic bottles are a menace. While the authorities are still struggling to find long-term solutions to these problems, what should the ordinary resident of Kampala do with them? The first thing you can do is stop littering the city or your residential area with these items! Everyone can do this. Secondly, get back into the habit of carrying a natural-fibre basket to market, even to the supermarket, for your shopping.
You do not have to carry 10 plastic bags home each time you buy food! This way, you will also support the women who weave these baskets. Happily, I have learned that there is now an industry in Kampala which buys used plastic bottles and â€œbuveeraâ€, if they are clean, for re-cycling. This is excellent news, and we may soon see the boys around town actually collecting such items and earning some money from them.
I would appreciate your responses and input to this discussion, using the contact below. I am convinced that if we think together, we will defeat the menace garbage represents in our city.
The writer is the First Lady of Uganda