The problem of poor waste management is a serious national problem which simply will not go away and should be a matter of deep concern at every level of government. Before the recent outbreak of the cholera epidemic up in the north, some individuals, technicians and organizations had raised concern and voiced out their dissatisfaction in the manner in which solid waste was being disposed of in our communities.
Rapid urbanization is attracting more and more people into the Buea municipality who construct and live in suburbs deprived of basic amenities where daily threats linked to the environment are still being aggravated by pollution and poor solid waste management.
How do council authorities intend to deal with the vast amounts of urban waste which makes our municipality a breeding ground for vermin and disease? How can the council awaken the consciousness of the average Buea resident to the seriousness of environmental problems like improper human waste disposal, unsafe water supplies, and massive air pollution? Mountains of refuse have become more or less permanent features in some neighbourhoods of Buea.
At a time when residents had been made to believe that the hygiene and sanitation situation had gone off hand to the extent that, the council could only dispose of the quantity of solid waste that it is capable of, Buea Council Authorities want to prove to residents that they have not been lying on their laurels.
It all started at least in the eyes of the man on the street seeing HYSACAM’s machinery clearing garbage heaps and emptying public garbage cans. Before residents had time to ponder over what was going on, some new containers larger than the ones residents were used too, were seen around the Council premises. Finally there was this banner at Bongo Square announcing the Buea Council – HYSACAM Partnership with the slogan “taking the caravan of cleanliness.”
Does the signaling of the coming of HYSACAM to Buea mean the end of mountains of refuse in our neighbourhoods-motor parks, quarters, junctions, highways and streets, graveyards, drainage systems, water points, schools, health facilities etc?
The importance of proper solid waste management for the health of the individual and the community cannot be overemphasized. The components of solid waste management are: storage in generating premises, collection, transportation and final disposal. Proper and sanitary storage of solid waste in the premises where they are generated constitute a very important link in the chain of activities for efficient solid waste management. The most satisfactory method of collection is to provide or require each householder to provide a covered bin or other receptacle into which household refuse is placed. Public places, including parks, churches, shops, markets, motor parks etc must have containers for solid waste storage.
Solid waste collection and transportation entail the gathering of the waste from generating premises or from designated depots, and its conveyance to the final disposal sites. These two activities are the most important and expensive aspects of solid waste management accounting for about 70% of the total budget. They can equally constitute the Achilles’ heel of solid waste management, something both Council authorities and HYSACAM must bear in mind. House to house solid waste collection is the most convenient and efficient. It should be maximally employed in Buea.
Where houses are not accessible by motorable roads, suitable collecting depots should be designated and strategically located. Households are required to deposit their refuse in these receptacles, which are emptied at intervals of not more than two days or preferably daily.
Buea Council must elaborate a hygiene and sanitation policy of the municipality and use the best of convincing and educative approach to raise awareness among the population to see the link between environmental sanitation or simply put cleanliness and public health; and above all, get them to be fully involved in the implementation of the council’s hygiene and sanitation policy. Even the face and approach of the Monthly Clean Up Campaigns have to change.
Generally trucks for collection and transportation of solid waste are usually in short supply. The problem is compounded by the use of unsuitable trucks which cannot withstand the severe wear and tear to which solid waste are exposed to. Most companies and municipalities prefer to buy Skip Eater Vehicles which are very expensive and require skillful operation and management. They are only cost-effective when solid waste is of low density and consist mostly of papers, cartons, and plastics. Simple tipper lorries which are covered to prevent the scattering of light refuse materials are the most cost-effective for household wastes. Moreover, tippers are assembled and the superstructure built in Cameroon. Wider use of these simple vehicles will therefore improve the quality and efficiency of solid waste management, conserve foreign exchange and provide more jobs to young people.
The efficiency of operations is enhanced by collecting and transporting solid wastes at night or in the very early hours of the morning. Unfortunately, this far, it is common practice to carry out these activities during the day when normal traffic impedes efficiency and effectiveness of operations.
The disposal of solid waste is the final treatment given to the waste in order to make it stable or environmentally friendly and healthy. It is expected that council authorities are going to give a deep thought to this reflection as they bring in HYSACAM in the municipality.