Journalist colleague who is very passionate about climate change and the environment, Matthews Malata, wrote on his Facebook page about some criminals who drove a lorry weighed down with stinking waste into an undesignated area along the Lilongwe West Bypass to dump it.
Yes, they are criminals because what they did was against the law and they knew about it. That is why they switched off their vehicle’s lights to accomplish their stinking mission in the dark.
Apparently, the incident is not unique. Unpatriotic individuals who do not care about the environment and people are reported to have turned the sides of this thoroughfare into dumping sites and they are doing everything with careless abandon.
So, motorists who use the road—conveniently constructed to ease congestion on the city’s inner roads—are exposed to the repressive stench floating from areas which should have otherwise been handy producers of oxygen.
Even those who trek to and from their homes using parts of the road cannot escape the bad smell dumped where it is never supposed to be.
Along a section of the road is also a river that is used by households perennially hit by water crises. As the criminals continue to dump their wet waste in bushes along the bypass, they are also endangering lives of these households that risk contracting sanitation-related illnesses.
There is no denying that this waste ends up in the river and this is a crisis we are nurturing as we fail to pay much attention to it.
This is a cholera season and it is a dangerous season. While we have successfully managed to stay clear of any serious cholera crisis the past two years, we cannot rest on our laurels hoping that the gains will sustain themselves without putting in place extra efforts.
There is that common talk from the country’s city, town and district councils that they are doing everything possible to hold off any possible cholera outbreak.
But when it comes of waste management, it is apparent that we are not that serious.
In fact the dumping of garbage along the Lilongwe West Bypass simply typifies what is happening in several other places in the country.
The traditional dumping sites are carelessly ignored by some residents and business people. Even our local councils are doing nothing about the loads of rubbish that continue to create ugly sights in our towns and cities.
Yet we have very comprehensive laws about waste management which would be easily used to efficiently slap those who choose to punish others with putrefying stenches.
So, when councils stand tall and proclaim that they have put in place strict measures to control possible cholera outbreaks this rainy season, it is difficult to imagine what these measures are when criminals are allowed to dump waste wherever they desire.
In fact, there are areas where communities continue to complain that some industrial plants are churning poisonous liquids into crop fields and rivers.
It is only once in a while that we hear that authorities have cracked the whip; otherwise, there is the usual lackadaisical approach to such crises.
While we all have the responsibility of ensuring that our surroundings are tidy, it becomes pretty difficult to let those paid to do that off the hook especially in ‘high-profile’ dumping acts like those done by criminals polluting the green sceneries along the Lilongwe West Bypass.
In the inner parts of the capital city itself, Blantyre and Lilongwe, poor waste management is there for all to see.
You cannot move around these places without putrid smells wafting to your nostrils. It is as if the cities do not have health and environment departments that should just attempt to do their jobs right and everything will be alright.
Of course, this garbage that is all over could also be symptomatic of what we really are as a people. Perhaps, it simply exemplifies the rot that is in the country.
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. He believes that quality reporting is critical in bringing positive change in communities. Alick is the Southern Africa Development Community journalist of the year (2020) in the television category. Follow him on Twitter @aponje