Abraham Mudefi Focus on Enviromental Isues —
Welcome to yet another informative and thought provoking episode of Focus on Environmental Issues. This week we examine the issue of waste collection and explore the possibilities of tendering over this obligation to private players.
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The reduced revenue inflows has left councils grappling to render basic service delivery to communities. The need to cut costs to realign budgets with the ever increasing revenue deficits has greatly compromised the services of the councils.
This has led to non-service delivery or substandard and intermittent services. Dwindling revenue has compromised the council’s capacity to provide a meaningful service.
With just a skeleton staff the council is faced with a mammoth task to regularly fulfill its mandate of waste collection. Due to the issues mentioned above the council has performed very dismally in waste collection in other areas. This article will discuss an alternative policy framework that could support council efforts to achieve a clean environment.
Private Waste collection is one route that could assist councils to ensure a consistent waste collection service in urban communities. This been implemented in developed and developing cities and has achieved great results. Private players sometimes have the resources to invest in innovative projects particularly in areas of their interest.
Private players hastily responds to changes in the operating environment unlike bigger local authority or government entities. Private players are typically innovative for the reason that bureaucracies in their institutions is very minimum.
Underperforming employees in non-governmental business entities face the chop and are replaced with competent and innovative human resources. Private entities thrive on providing a service to get profit unlike local authorities who may essentially get a saving from withdrawing a service.
Business entities have been very proactive in the recycling of waste in previous years. This is a very lucrative business venture which could attract investment if a conducive environment has been created. Such innovation will advance the current management of the waste dump sites which is a haven of disease vectors.
Independent businesses bring with it competitively educated and experienced staff who are paid to rise profits for companies. While council staff may be equally experienced they don’t work for a profit in waste collection, they work to provide a service. This may not be that compelling. With the private sector the collection of waste in our cities and town will inevitably improve.
The privatization of waste collection also has a fair share of challenges. Sufficient mitigation measures should be put in place before the actual implementation of these alternatives to waste collection. Naturally private players are business oriented.
Their motivation into the venture is profit. Sometimes they forget that they are providing services that constitute fundamental rights of citizens. These services may draw the line between life and death for poorer population. Uncollected cabbage result in spread of diseases like cholera.
Private players have a tendency to serve people who can afford their services and ignore the rest. It makes business sense. This means other people will continue to leave in very disease infested conditions.
These conditions may perpetrate the proliferation of diseases in communities. Uncollected garbage reverse the national gains in the attainment of the millennium development milestones.
A strict policy framework will need to be drawn and adhered to so that private players do not compromise the health of the public in pursuit of exaggerated profits.
It is important to note that local authorities work in communities for the communities. While councils have managed to involve communities in the council budget processes. In most cases nothing very sustainable has been done beyond that point.
If people pay for a waste collection services and that is not done, or that is being done very irregularly the people need to know what is going on. That is being accountable and that is democracy.
If a client pay for food in a restaurant and the food takes forever to come, that has to be explained because the contract was that a client gets food in a stipulated time. So for our councils this is something that is missing in waste collection management like many other services.
Communities are not just supposed to wait for fate to decide when bins will be collected. Councils should involve the people, explain to them the challenges being faced and they will be surprised the amount of support they will get from communities.
With the current state of affairs why should someone endure to pay for a service that they are not getting? Councils should involve the people, make press statement, call them for meeting, get suggestions from them, and explain to them the challenges among many measures. It is very absurd that the community is so mum about it.
Some of them pay religiously every month but bins are still not collected. I am not instigating strikes, demos or an uprising of some sort.
All I am saying is involve communities in service delivery particularly waste collection. We will always live with challenges but if the community is paying money for a service that they are not getting then their voice should be heard. They should be part of the solution.
Local authorities need to explore various community waste management models that empower the people to keep their environments clean. This is particularly so now in the face of irregular waste collection.
Community structures could lead to very successful initiatives on alternatives like supervised community incinerating of waste in well-built council community incinerators. Naturally these households would police each other on waste management.
They will not permit any households to dump waste in undesignated places. Once such community structures are in place they could be used for other things like neighborhood security efforts, fighting against diseases like malaria, health support groups among other examples.
This is also something NGOs, Churches and the Private Sector could do to fight the random dumping of waste in undesignated place. Such initiatives could also promote waste sorting for recycling and promote use of some of the waste to generate power.
Residing in a clean environment that promotes healthy living for children and adults is a basic human right. It is the mandate of the local government to ensure that this is achieved across the divide. Waste litter collection is a basic facet of a clean environment.
The council should work with its community, civil society organisations and churches. A prominent church in Harare has undergone a massive clean-up campaign that brought back the glamour of the Harare Sunshine City for a while.
Such stakeholders should be engaged, involved and given enough space to participate in issues that pertain to their environmental hygiene. On the other hand the community should engage council in a very constructive manner and demand a clean environment.
They should come up with local cheap and sustainable community initiated methods of refuse collection.
It is our collective responsibility to beat the litter dumps that are now a menace in our residential areas. Together with the local authority urban communities can make our city clean again. Have a plum and pleasant weekend.
Abraham Mudefi is a Development Worker with a local Development Organisation. Please feel free to suggest other environment topics of concern or just sent in your feedback to [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> or 0772 968 040.