by Suhaib Arogundade
Waste Management has been an activity widely regarded as a public service and should be catered for by the government or relevant public authority saddled with the responsibility. The public entity responsible often delivers this critical service through private establishments while in some climes; the provision of the service is done by the public authority itself.
Whatever arrangement adopted by a city government in managing the waste generated by its citizen, consideration has to be given to some certain parameters in order to safeguard the environment and health of the served residents. While most attention goes to the physical environment due to the apparent nature of it (that is, if the environment is littered it is obvious), little regard seems to be given to the not-so-obvious effects of improper waste management in cities which is described in this article as “intangibles”. These intangibles are of more significant effect than the parameter (physical environment cleanliness) which is used mostly to measure the efficiency of waste management in cities.
The intangibles of waste management have an effect both on the environment and human health. This effect needs to be duly noted and prioritized in every waste management intervention provided by city governments. Below are some of the intangibles of waste management;
- Air Pollution: This is a subtle effect exhibited by improper waste management. While the most conscious effect of air pollution caused by waste is odour as the waste degrades, it goes beyond that. The pollution to the air which involves the release of toxic substance (depending on the constituent of the waste) from waste degradation also increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – a contributory factor to global warming and this takes its toll on plants, animals, and human beings. The sad part is, this pollution has a global phenomenon meaning it is not limited to the city which caused it. This is why city governments need to be more pro-active in ensuring that air pollution from waste is curtailed as much as possible.
- Water Pollution (Groundwater and Surface Water): Perhaps, the most silent and invasive effect of improper waste management is water pollution especially in Africa where there is a huge dependence on raw ground and surface water to meet the water need of the citizen. The effect can be considered to be more tense in some part of Africa like Nigeria where every home is saddled with the responsibility of providing its own clean water and usually, this need is met by drilling of boreholes in individual homes while those who live close to rivers meet their needs by utilizing the river water. Improper waste management contributes immensely to water pollution due to the leaching nature of waste as it degrades. The leachate produced during waste degradation can flow to rivers if waste disposal site is close to it and also percolate the soil to contaminate groundwater. The effect of water pollution from waste can equally be felt miles away due to river flow as well as the natural design of water table level underground. Both the city government and individuals need to pay conscious attention to this effect because indiscriminate dumping of waste can get water contaminated anywhere.
- Illness and Diseases: This is also an intangible aspect of waste management which mostly affects children due to their low immune level and of course adults. Both air and water pollution are a contributory factor to illnesses and diseases in humans when it comes to improper waste management. At times, when an individual is ill or down with a disease, it might be difficult to trace the root cause to waste management due to the enumerated reasons in (i) and (ii) above. Hence, a need for more concerted effort in providing adequate waste management services to citizens by the city government because the effect of illness and diseases in human is more dire as it may cause death and life is irreplaceable.
Author: Suhaib Arogundade
Suhaib Arogundade is an enthusiastic young professional who has interest in commodity trading, mindset redesigning, and waste management research.
Suhaib is the Chief Waste Eliminator at WasteWatch Africa.