HARARE – While the issue of refuse collection has become so central in discussions on local authorities’ provision of service, it is important for residents to play their part to ensure they live in garbage-free environments.
This may only be achieved if councils educate residents on how they can assist cash-strapped councils cope with refuse collection.
On one hand there has to be evidence of good corporate governance on those running councils so that residents have confidence in the way they spend revenue collected.
If top council officials drive posh cars and live in plush suburbs, outside the areas they run, residents will begin to feel shortchanged.
In most high density areas — across the length and breadth of the country — the amount of refuse awaiting collection seems to outweigh councils’ capacity to render the same service.
Harare and Chitungwiza — the biggest and third biggest urban centres in the country respectively in terms of population — seem to be the worst in terms of refuse collection inadequacies.
For Chitungwiza, the situation is even made worse by the frequent sewer bursts experienced in the dormitory town of close to a million people.
One reason the local authority has given is the unprecedented growth of the population which they claim has strained the sewer reticulation facility hitherto constructed to cater for a much smaller number of people.
Environmentalists have routinely pressed on local authorities which found it difficult to adequately finance refuse collection to resort to the placement of skip bins at strategic points as these would take slightly longer to fill and hence would be collected at a lower frequency.
Sadly, these have been let to overfill with refuse falling off onto the ground most of the time. At times, tramps and other wayward people would light up the garbage in the skip bins which then smoulder continuously, causing another problem of pollution to the already dirty environments, over and above significantly shortening the life-span of the skip bins themselves.
It would be better if councils invest in massive education campaigns so that residents in their respective cities begin to appreciate the key role they play in keeping their vicinities clean.
Massive education campaigns would definitely come in handy in controlling the costs of dealing with refuse thrown around everywhere in residential as well as shopping centres.
Most urban settlements have storm water drains that help direct rainwater down to waterways and reservoirs that could be found in those areas. However, most of these storm water drains have been filled up with refuse disposed by residents after missing on the refuse collection trucks or because they do not know the net consequence of their behaviour.
Council programmes towards clearing the storm water drains, usually performed just before the rainy season will be a waste of resources if residents are not informed about the dangers of disposing of garbage in storm water drains. When rains fall, the roads inevitably flood as the drains cannot carry the rainwater, endangering the residents along the way.
It is a fact that councils may not be collecting as much as they would want to from residents in the forms of rates, but there has to be a will by the city fathers with the little they get.
When one moves around most urban centres today — be it in residential or shopping areas — the sight of uncollected garbage is not unusual, providing healthy grounds for the breeding of flies, mosquitoes and other creatures that transmit diseases.
Bringing all stakeholders around the table and emphasising the benefits of concerted efforts may be the only solution towards achieving cleaner environments and, with that, healthy citizens. Local authorities be prudent in the manner in which they manage revenue collected, prioritising service delivery ahead of personal enrichment by top officials, if they intend to gain the confidence of ratepayers.