On Wednesday, President Lazarus Chakwera launched the National Clean-up Day. He was joined by Vice-President Saulos Chilima, several Cabinet ministers, diplomats, environmentalists and a host of other Malawians in the exercise at Chinsapo in Lilongwe.
To say the least, this gesture is welcome. It comes at a time the country is grappling with waste. Uncollected refuse in uncollected skips, used diapers and thin plastics are an eyesore everywhere. And, no one seems to care.
Besides, the rivers in our towns and cities are stinking because of solid and liquid waste from industries. We have heard of companies dumping waste into river sources, resulting into rivers that are more of sewers than the bodies bearing natural water as God created.
This launch is hopefully a symbol of what we want to see happening daily, countrywide. What started at Chinsapo should not end there.
The hope, further, is that the initiative will not take the route of the national tree-planting season. Although companies, organisations and individuals plant trees during the season, little care is taken for them, making the intention fruitless.
For the initiative to bear real fruit, more needs to be done. There are so many industry players that are polluting the environment, yet they go scot free. Councils know these pollutants but pretend to see no evil and there is high possibility that the inaction is oiled by corruption.
Government instituted a ban on thin plastics, but to date, they are still on the market. Not only do thin plastics blot the landscape, they are also a threat to livestock and marine life, not to mention degrading the soil structure. Yet, companies continue to manufacture these plastic papers.
What started at Chinsapo on Wednesday will be meaningless if councils continue to neglect their duties in waste management. While councils continue to ask government for bail outs, primarily because of abuse of funds, they fail to get rid of heaps and heaps of trash at marketplaces, hospitals and residential areas.
Councils have to put more efforts in refuse collection by making disposal points easily accessible. There are times people urinate against trees in town just because the councils do not have toilets. For that matter, here is another missed opportunity because councils could construct such toilets and commercialise them by engaging willing operators to run them.
At times, some councils take forever to repair broken sewers. Not only is the filth uncalled for, it also poses a major threat on public health.
Time is ripe the executive pumped sense into these local authorities that a clean environment should be a priority. It should not be a by the way thing.
On the other hand, what started at Chinsapo may end there if Malawians do not internalize cleanliness. This will be a useless feat if Malawians continue littering from their cars as they drive and dump used diapers anywhere. The rewards for the gesture will not be felt if Malawians at large do not find alternative means to minimise the trash they throw away.
Cleanliness should be part of the national agenda and the civic education should have started yesterday.