By: Dikembe Disembe
From the time man chose sedentary lifestyle over nomadic, the place of garbage has not been so far away from manâ€™s abode. Kenya as a country is facing the biggest challenge of managing waste. With all the stereotypes and assumptions on Kenyan communities, the problem of waste cuts across. Garbage is a Kisumu problem just as it is a Kisii, Mombasa, Nakuru and Eldoret problem. In Nairobi, waste is becoming a crisis.
As new systems fall in place and a new government sets out to work, waste handling must receive the attention it deserves. Waste is a resource in its own. Countries such as Sweden imports garbage from other countries to use for energy generation, yet here, it is seen as a menace.
With heavy downpours being experienced in most places in the country, nature is bringing the greatest filths it has hidden for far too long. Human excreta, polythene bags, kitchen wastes, electronics, plastics, used diapers and women menstrual pads all get swept along by flowing surface water. The sight is sickening and disgusting. Yet in most slum areas and low income neighborhoods, foodstuffs get sold in open spacesâ€™ sometimes very close to burst sewer lines, open manholes, and other hazardous areas.
Having a clean environment is a precondition for having a healthy, working nation. Indeed, a clean environment is a human right, basic right, even. As Environmentalist Odhiambo Oketch, the Executive Director of The Clean Africa Campaign puts it, â€œthe War on Garbage and Waste cannot be won by bottling up knowledgeâ€, and it sure cannot be won!
For the 10 years Kibaki was in power, he never took cognizance of the symbolism which leading a nation in environmental conservation activities would have created among Kenyans. Unlike Rwanda where each month the nation unites in environmental cleaning, Kenyaâ€™s unity is more on the defense of indefensible, when they happen, especially in sports or politics. Today, we rank among the poorest nations of the world in environmental conservation. The new Director of Environment must seek audience with players in this sector to find lasting solutions to waste management.
Corruption in waste management must now stop. Those who get the tender to manage waste ought to appreciate that unlike other services; managing waste is like preventing an ailment. It is a matter of life and death, and it preserves the gains of a society.
While it is easy to accept political garbage and move on, we must never try with this environmental garbage. We must remember the immortalized words of our own Nobel Laureate Waangari Maathai, that, â€œnature is so unforgiving . . . if we destroy nature . . . nature will destroy us.â€