Haunted by waste
Kasungu Municipality is becoming one of the densely populated areas as urbanisation spreads far and wide.
People have found Kasungu a paradise as it offers some opportunities in agriculture, business as well as employment opportunities both in private and public sectors.
The influx of people to the green gold town, as it is popularly called because of leading in tobacco production, has also brought in some problems.
There is more waste generated, both liquid and solid, than it is managed
The worst nightmare for the people of Kasungu Municipality is that people are living, working and plying their trade where piles of wastes lie uncollected.
Japhet Banda is a resident of the town who mostly uses Kasungu Main Market. He says he is annoyed by poor sanitation and waste management at the main market.
Banda says there are always piles of garbage which he believes are a health hazard.
“The hygiene aspect of the market is neglected,” Banda says.
“The workers sweep the market but it takes time to remove garbage because there are no dumping sites and it seems the municipal council is not concerned about our health.”
Banda also laments the state of toilets and the sewer system that are not properly managed.
“The market is the only place that has public toilets and there are only five toilets to cater for a very large population that uses the market.
“Mostly, the toilets are not taken care of and the stand-alone sewage system is not that good,” Banda adds.
The leadership of the market is equally concerned about the state of waste management in the market.
Chairperson Bannet Sanudi says, several times, they have brought to the attention of the council issues of how wastes are being managed but there has been no change.
“The toilet near the tavern is just worse. Tools such as bins, rakes and shovels used to clean the market are not enough,” Sanudi says.
Away from the central business area to the residential, the situation is even worse. Piles of garbage are left on site for many days without being collected.
Kasungu Municipal Council (KUMC) says its capacity to handle waste has been undermined by lack of resources.
However, the council says it is trying its best to make sure that at least solid waste is being cleared and disposed of properly.
“We are doing all we can to have a clean town. That is why we intend to procure more cleaning materials are also planning to have a proper dumping site,” says Martin Kadyakapita, KUMC Public Relations Officer.
The current dump site, 11 kilometres away from the town, is unfenced.
Liquid waste management also leaves a lot to be desired with no proper sewer systems that can take liquid wastes to a single place for treatment. The situation is worsened by erratic water supply which forces people to use pit latrines.
Pit latrines in areas where Central Region Water Board (CRWB) supplies water is against the laws but such areas are a common sight.
Funny Mdala, another Kasungu resident living in a location close to the municipal town, has no kind words for CRWB.
“We have taps and flushing toilets that are white elephants. We go weeks without water and we are forced to have pit latrines within our small plots,” she says.
WaterAid is a non-governmental organisation dealing with issues of water and sanitation. Recently, the organisation, in collaboration with another organisation in the same sector called Mineral and Appropriate Technologies Applicable in Malawi (Matama), sanctioned an assessment to see the situation of solid and liquid waste management in Kasungu Municipality.
The results of the assessment showed that the municipality has a very long way to go in managing its waste.
Conducted by Counterpoint Development Consultants, the assessment showed that there are growing waste management challenges, considering the ever-increasing population and intermittent water supply.
“Population growth has seen people living more closely together and this has put more stress on available water sources and networks,” the assessment report states in part.
The consultants recommend an improved sewer system for the town. But with erratic water supply dogging the municipality, achieving such a feat is just another farfetched dream.
CRWB Scheme Manager for Kasungu, Mussa Chimtsimbo, concedes that the board cannot supply enough water at the moment.
“It’s impossible. Already we are not producing enough water, having such a system is not possible,” Chimtsimbo says.
Going by the assessment, solid waste management is now a crisis.
“Households usually burn the waste while some bury it. However, the majority leave it in open spaces where it stays uncollected,” observes the assessment.
There are situations where the council collects garbage from collection sites but experience has shown that it takes time for this to be done.
The assessment further reveals that most institutions have faulty sewer systems.
“There are collapsed sewer lines, cracked and leaking oxidation ponds, leakage and pollution. These lead to contamination of water sources in some cases,” reads the report
Within the municipality, there is a hospital, a prison, two secondary schools, a teachers’ college and an agriculture development division just to mention some institutions.
Looking ahead, Matama Project Manager, Samuel Muhone, says the assessment is an eye-opener as it will help them find what interventions can be taken to save the situations.
It will be a delighting sight to see a clean Kasungu Municipality one day but, until then, people have to live with the waste.
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