Most residential areas in the country’s cities stink due to failure by city council authorities to collect garbage.
Dust bins are seen lying along the roads, emptied by dogs or scavengers after city council refuse trucks fail to make their weekly collection rounds.
Some residents resort to burning the waste while others dispose of the same in rivers and other places they deem fit. In case of the rivers, others knowingly pollute or unknowingly use the polluted water for washing, irrigation and other needs.
Despite the residents paying rates to access waste collection, among other services, they incur extra costs employing helpers to dispose of the garbage.
In an interview this week, Edson Banda, 27, a resident of New Naperi in Blantyre, urged Blantyre City Council to ensure timely collection of the garbage.
“The situation is worrisome because we stay for over two weeks at times without collection services. Since we have nowhere else to go, we just burn the garbage at times,” he said.
On her part, Esther Banda of Soche East in Blantyre said the council should find ways to ensure effective collection of waste.
On their part, the councils attribute the situation to resource constraints and challenges in terms of garbage collection vans.
In a written response, Blantyre City Council spokesperson Anthony Kasunda said the council is facing challenges with its fleet of garbage collection vans.
He said: “The council is doing everything possible to make sure that the garbage collection services remain uninterrupted.”
On his part, Mzuzu City Council spokesperson MacDonald Gondwe attributed irregular collection of garbage in residential areas to lack of resources, mainly vehicles.
“In the first place, it is true that Mzuzu has been in a bad state due to lack of equipment and cash flow problems. However, when we look at the situation now and compare it to previous situations, there has been an improvement,” he said.
But Gondwe said the council currently only collects garbage within the central business district and cannot afford to collect from residential areas.
He said the challenge arises from the fact that private firms that the council licensed to collect garbage from residential areas are demanding various fees from the residents for the service, which is not ideal.
But Zomba City Council spokesperson Mercy Chaluma backed the council on the basis that it is not experiencing big challenges.
She said: “Yes, we have intermittent vehicle breakdowns which affect routine collection, but we still try to reach out to the affected areas and notify them in cases of breakdowns, which does not even take weeks.”
Chaluma said their main challenge in waste management is community attitude and practices regarding proper waste disposal.
She said waste management failure within the city is more of behavioural than collection, adding that the council has provided skips for communal temporary storage. However, she says its utilisation leaves a lot to be desired.
“While we have these skips, people still choose to throw their waste down, labouring our waste staff to put the waste in the skip on collection days which defeats the whole purpose of providing skips,” Chaluma said.
When contacted, Lilongwe City Council spokesperson Tamara Chafunya asked for more time before responding.
Environmental health experts say city councils need to engage viable partnerships because they do not have capacity to manage all the waste.
In an interview, an environmental health expert Save Kumwenda said: “It is true that about 70 percent is not collected by the city. A small percentage is recycled while most of it remains in our environment. The uncollected waste has a negative impact on the aesthetic looks of our cities.”