Kigali officials have come out fighting after a report alleged that poor waste disposal by the city was putting the lives of its residents at risk.
The Kigali State of Environment and Outlook Report 2013, released by Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (Rema), reveals that only 25 per cent of solid waste generated in the city is disposed of in gazetted landfills.
This means three-quarters of the waste ends up in rivers, ditches and vacant public places, causing a health and environmental hazard.
The practice also taints the name of the city, which won the prestigious UN Habitat Scroll of Honour Award in 2008 for its outstanding cleanliness on the continent.
The report blamed high operational cost coupled with too few licensed companies to collect and transport garbage for the state of affairs.
Kigali City Council’s waste management officer, John Mugabo, however poked holes in the report, saying the volume of garbage that is reported uncollected is exaggerated. He added that the city has over time been improving its waste management.
“It’s not true that 75 per cent of waste generated by households is not collected,” he said. “Only five sectors of the rural city are yet to be allocated companies to provide waste collection services.”
But the Rema report released on December 12, which covered 2012 and 2013, says 13 sectors in the city have no waste collection services, resulting in garbage remaining in homes uncollected or being dumped in water drainage systems.
Rwanda Today has learnt that only nine companies and co-operatives are involved in solid waste collection and transportation business across the city, whose population of 1.35 million is expected to hit the three million mark within the next six years.
The firms contracted to collect garbage in the entire Kigali city include Isuku Kinyinya Co-operative, Ubumwe Cleaning Services, Co-operative de Gisozi, Inzira Nziza and Baheza. Others are COPED, AGRUNI Ltd, COCEN and Real Environment Protectors.
And, according to some residents, the firms are overwhelmed by the volume of garbage. The delays have been reported to the sanitation regulatory authority, which has since suspended some companies.
Recent estimates indicate that every Kigali resident produces 1.8kg to 2kg of waste daily, making it 2,000 metric tonnes in total per day. Rema’s state of environment report shows that this was a four-fold increase from 500 metric tonnes per day in 2007, barely six years ago.
Despite the huge volume of waste, Rwanda’s reuse and recycling sectors remain nascent and at some point non-existent.
Mediatrice Siboniyo, a 42-year-old mother of five and her neighbours in Kabeza Cell of Muhima Sector are among the victims of poor waste disposal. Many of them either discharge waste into the storm drain during the rainy season or bear with the rotting garbage in their homes.
The open drainage canal passes between residential houses and business shops lining the stretch from the top of Muhima to the Nyabugogo wetland, the endpoint for most runoff and sewage from different parts of the city.
“The situation never improves; we just keep our doors closed and our young children away for fear of infection and this bad odour,” lamented Ms Siboniyo, pointing at heaps of stinking domestic waste in front of her home.
“On sunny days, this waste attracts flies,” she said.
For health reasons, local leaders have ordered residents not to display foodstuffs for sale around the canal. They commissioned a person who, upon the promise of getting paid by the residents, clears the drainage twice a week, an extra cost to the monthly waste collection fees paid per household.
The fees paid to the private companies depend on the distance between the landfill and the homes as well as a household’s social economic status. The price ranges from Rwf1,800 to Rwf6,900 in Nyarugenge District while in Kicukiro and Gasabo the highest fee is Rwf11,200 and Rwf6,500, respectively.
Issues to do with poor waste disposal are not isolated to Muhima Sector residents. It is sometimes similar or worse in its Nyarugenge neighbourhoods of Gitega and Kimisagara sectors. Residents of steep suburbs in Gatsata and Gisozi in Gasabo District tell the same story.
Although the report commends the significant increase of garbage collectors and the number of residents using formal waste collection services, it says inadequate waste disposal is rampant.
“It is a requirement of the environment organic law to those responsible for waste collection and management,” noted Dr Rose Mukankomeje, Director-General of Rema, in her comment.
Law No.04/2005 of 08/04/2005 determining the modalities of protection, conservation and promotion of the environment contains obligations, preventive and penal provisions for both the state and the population.
Articles 102, 107 and 109 highlight punitive measures against illegal disposal of waste — namely; pouring waste or sewage in public places, burning trash and smoking in public, among other polluting actions.
About three more waste collection companies, according to Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura), could join the business.
“We issued licences to two more companies recently while another has formally presented its request for a licence,” said Jacques Nzitonda, Rura’s director of water and sanitation.
Mr Nzitonda however dismissed claims of the licensing being so rigid that it prohibits those wishing to venture into waste collection and transportation industry from doing so. Besides paying the licence fee of Rwf2.5 million, one must have at least three trucks for the job.
“The cost is reasonable, considering what the charge in other countries is,” Mr Nzitonda said. “Here they are sure of the market, there are still few players.”
The ongoing City Master Plan implementation is what city council officials put forward to help address some hygiene and environmental issues partly attributed to poor planning.
The Electricity, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) says following the 2010 sanitation master plan, solid waste management design was established with the aim of putting in place recycling plant components in a yet-to-be-identified modern landfill.
The proposed plant is expected to recycle degradable waste and have an incinerator to process non-degradable waste, including chemical waste.
EWSA Deputy Director-General in charge of Water and Sanitation James Sano however said the government is yet to secure the $28 million required for the project.