The clean-up initiative has been launched nationwide. From the national launch in Chinsapo by President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima, now almost every city, district council and municipality has had a launch of their own. Both Chakwera and Chilima must be applauded for leading by example and showing the way. It is now the responsibility of every Malawian to embrace this habit and keep their surroundings and communities clean and free of trash.
During the launch of the initiative by Blantyre City Council, Vice-President Chilima lamented Malawi is grappling with waste management especially in cities, towns, major trading centers, market centers and generally in homes.
He gave chilling statistics of how much waste is generated every day per person.
Looking at huge piles of trash being cleared during the launch by various stakeholders, it is clear that as a country we have lived and normalised rubbish as part of us. It is no wonder it has been so difficult to fight diseases such as Malaria. The trash we keep is a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes. It is a source of air and waterborne diseases.
Not only does that trash impact humans, the litter poisons animals, killing aquatic life directly through choking and indirectly through its impact on water quality. Littering can be a fire hazard and it attracts pests and rodents.
It is for this reason that I applaud the Clean Up Day initiative. However, I hope this good initiative will just be good on paper. It has to translate to a changed lifestyle and mindset for every individual. It is sad to note that most public spaces in the country do not have rubbish bins. Sometimes one has to hold on to the litter in their hands for hours because they cannot easily find a rubbish bin nearby.
I would urge the government to make it mandatory that both public spaces such as shopping malls have rubbish bins. In residential areas, let the city councils and municipalities be consistent with picking trash.
While I still applaud various stakeholders for taking a lead in the clean-up exercise, so far it looks like councils are trying to outshine each other. This is something that has to be tamed. The allowances being paid to “guest of honour” for a sweeping exercise should be channeled to investment in waste management infrastructure.
One can only hope that the exercise does not end with the launch. Keeping our environment clean is good for us today and for the generation to come.