Assessing Solid Waste Management Practices in Limbe Municipality, South West Region of Cameroon
By Ewi Stephanie Lamma
Research Fellow -Natural Resource Management
In many African cities, municipal solid waste management has been one of the major contributors of health and environmental problems today and especially in Cameroon. Solid waste arising from domestic, social and industrial activities is increasing in quantity and variety as a result of growing population, rising standards of living in most African countries and the development of technology (Dickerson, 1999).
The increasing industrialisation and fast growth does not only pose problems related to the allocation of resources and powers, but also severely challenges the natural environment. Environmental degradation such as contaminated waters has become a harsh reality in many parts of Cameroon.
Despite environmental regulations in Cameroon that protect the quality of streams and rivers, solid waste in the form of trash, litter, and garbage often ends up in these surface waters. Because surface waters collect in low-lying areas, anything that is dropped or blown into a watershed can eventually reach a drainage way. In urban areas, trash and litter often are transported by storm water runoffs or floods. In both urban and rural areas, these items sometimes are illegally dumped directly into a water body, or deposited along riverbanks.
Noteworthy, a damaged local environment hits the most vulnerable groups of society the hardest. Poor and marginalised people lack the resources needed to reduce the negative effects of a degraded environment. At the same time, they are usually directly dependent on their close natural environment for their daily survival.
Case study of Limbe Municipality
Limbe is a town in Fako Division of the South West region of Cameroon and it is located in an active and dynamic coastal zone. Limbe is located along the rocky coast of Cameroon and covers a surface area of about 674 kmÂ² (Limbe Town Planning Office, 2000).
One result of a rapid urbanisation, a slowly reducing gap between urban and rural, changing consumption patterns, and a growing population is the problem of waste. Although the average Cameroonian only generates around half a kilo of solid waste per day, the volume is huge. In Limbe, a current figure shows that the present population of Limbe is estimated at 84,223 according to the 2005 population census. The city area has also increased to about 6000 hectares, with about 4000 hectares of residential and commercial areas. This has gradually led to an increase in solid waste from 100 to 150 tons per day.
Given the current developments, the generation of municipal solid waste in Limbe in the year 2047 has been projected to exceed 260 million tons – a number more than five times the present levels. Most of these wastes are being generated from house hold preparations, cooking and serving of food, sales and storage, market refuse, street sweeping, construction and demolishing. Furthermore, there are other sources like second hand goods from developed nations that are being sent to most Africa cities especially in Limbe municipality. Often, they are near the end of life cycle so they spend little time with the owners and finally become as waste (Achankeng 2003).
While the quantity of solid waste generated by society is increasing, the composition of solid waste is becoming more and more diversified.
Thirty years ago, the composition of solid waste generated by the average Cameroonian was characterised by one-fifth non-biodegradable waste and four-fifths biodegradable waste. At present, this ratio is about to reverse; today, a mere 40 percent is biodegradable while 60 percent is non-biodegradable. At the same time, many households do not recycle their waste, but, instead, tend to dispose it outside their homes or in streams close to their homes.
The most common litter in streams around the Limbe municipality is household trash, including plastic cups, plastic bags, wrapping materials, fast-food wrappers, plastic bottles, and other plastic containers. Trash items are unsightly and are a sign of human neglect or disregard for aesthetic values and natural resources. Plastics can be especially hazardous to wildlife. Depending on their form, they can either be ingested, causing internal organ failure, or they can cause a slow strangulation.
Household trash in streams
Even though the city of Limbe is using 30 percent of their budget in solid waste management, only 20-50 percent of the waste is being collected. Illegal dumps still constitute 50 percent of health and environmental degradation. In common, people in Limbe have poor attitudes towards waste management. The issue of carrying waste to the dumpsites has been like the duty of children. These children sometimes try to find the most possible, less time consuming way to dump this dirt so they can rush off to continue in their playing activities. With the conception that a running stream close to the house will carry away the waste, they dump it there believing it is hidden from the sight of the parents who sent them, not knowing the harm it posses to man and other natural resources.
Much effort has been made to increase awareness to the private and public sectors in regards to solid waste management in Cameroon. Yet many people still have not been looking into it as a way to better appreciate environmental quality because they think the aspect of waste management is the role and responsibility of the government forgetting that, individuals also have a very important role to play in order to have a healthy environment.
Efforts Made By the Council to Manage Waste in the Limbe Municipality
For a while now, the management of solid waste has been in the hands of the Limbe City Council and some private N.G.O.’s operating in and around the city. Waste collection rates have increased dramatically from like 10 percent in the early 1990s to the present percent execution by Cameroon hygiene and Sanitation Company popularly known as (HYSACAM) which is a French acronym for “Hygiene et slubrite’du Cameroon”, the municipal solid waste management company in Limbe. This solid waste management has been operating in Cameroon for a very long time in various urban cities. They position portable public skips of various sizes (1mÂ³, 3mÂ³, 6mÂ³, 9mÂ³and 16mÂ³) on the strategic positions of the city and empty them on planned daily schedule. 150 bins of 3mÂ³to 16mÂ³category exist today (Monkam et al.2000). These skips are of various seizes depending on the generation capacity and also the level of accessibility of the area.
Dumper trucks of various classes had been imported by HYSACAM for the collection and removing of dumping waste of the city of Limbe. Sweeping of some of the main streets is done manually by some of their employers and also by one mechanical van present for this use. Many problems do exits, because these equipments do break down time and again due to poor management and inexperience drivers.
The equipments are also so expensive to maintain and run. All this has made the population to have mix feelings about their operation. However HYSACAM has succeeded in removing about 30-60 percent of the waste today, which is a great improvement.
The Limbe City council has also tried to bring the aspect of waste management to the level of individuals by tagging one Wednesday within each month as a ‘KEEP LIMBE CLEAN’ day. During these Wednesdays, which can at times alternate depending on the events within the municipality, individuals are expected to keep their immediate environments clean and neat from the early morning hours until 12 noon, during which the doors of no institution, shop or business organisation is to be seen open until after that time.
These measures put in place by the council are very helpful in massive waste management yet are limited because only some privilege people benefit from home collection of the solid waste, this is due to the fact most of the streets are inaccessible. Hence others are left with little or no choice but to dump their solid waste in open spaces, water bodies, drainage channels, along roadsides and streets. Deposition of this solid waste into drainages will cause the drainage to block and result to flooding in the city. Like the case of 2002 when flooding and landslide occurred in various slums and ghettos in the city of Limbe.
Damaging Effects of Illegal (open dump) Waste Disposal
The disposal and burning of domestic waste can cause profound strain on the environment, contamination of ground water resources, organic and inorganic pollution of nearby surface water and carbon dioxide released from landfills as the main disposal site.
Waste is associated with hazards that are terrifying to humans and the climate system if it is not managed in a more sustainable manner. Study by the United Nations (1992) point out that in a total of 5.2 million deaths that results annually from increases urban waste generation, over 4 millions are children who die of cholera, diarrhoea, malaria etc in different parts of the world.
The United Nations international children emergency fund (UNICEF) compels state parties to develop and carry out necessary steps and policies in the light of the well being of children who are both in the present and future generation (Memuna 2009). Children as humans, entail good and healthier environments with safety measures. Although the relationship between solid waste and diseases are not well acknowledged, it has been noticed that solid waste in a warm and moist condition can harbour vectors of diseases such as plague, typhoid and dysentery.
In addition, the presence of human faecal matter and potentially hazardous substances in the municipal waste streams, decomposition of waste to GHG, the penetration of leachate into surrounding soils, the emission of heavy metals, fire hazards, and rubbish blown by wind (air pollution) resulting from the burning waste dumps are all associated. These are major sources of CO2 and CH4 that can cause ill-health problems to waste management workers as well as scavengers.
These gases (CO2 and CH4) consequently results to decrease in water quality and increase atmospheric concentration of global warming (Memuna 2009). Methane emission is considered to be one of the most released GHG emissions from a landfill; the content of this gas is depending on the carbon content of the waste which is eagerly biodegradable. The gas has significant negative effects on the environment and on human health if it is not handled in a more sustainable manner (Couth and Trois 2010).
Moving to action
If no government agency has the responsibility or resources to clean up the banks of a stream or its littered streambed, then it is the responsibility of non government organisations and private citizens to do so. There are many opportunities for private citizens to participate in river and stream cleanups, which could include; volunteering activities and community service.
There is a need for awareness to be raised on issues addressing water-quality. If more organisations including the general public are aware of the environmental loads of some activities, then less environmental damages will be realised. Awareness could be created by communication channels through campaigns, conferences and other mass Medias.
Public participation in SWM is the key to a sustainable and integrated community. The Limbe municipality could get as many local actors as possible to participate and actively contribute to the project. Most importantly, a feeling of ownership for the community needs to be created among the citizens, whose waste is managed and whose local environment needs improvement. The involvement of the community in the planning process is very important and should be taken seriously because without their participation the process will be cumbersome since they are the producers of waste. Thus a top down policy application should be stopped and a bottom up approach should be used. According to Post (2007) community participation in a program or project on waste have a 90 percent success rate.
Waste management should equally be mainstreamed through education and public sensitization systems. Literature has a supportive role for public education in successful solid waste management programs. In order to raise public awareness and encourage behavioural change and thereby gain public participation public campaigns should be part of the strategy including punitive methods for violators of the program. The development of effective public education campaigns is a step in realizing the cultural transformation that is necessary for solid waste management reform in Cameroon also, youth groups and eco-clubs at schools could be engaged in the waste management via continuous school intervention programmes.
The government is doing a good job by constructing new roads in Limbe which has given access to once inaccessible neighbourhoods to waste trucks of HYSACAM. Example is the Mile One-Bota hospital road and the Mbende-Lumpsum road. Yet, many inaccessible roads exist within the municipality which are the main sites of illegal waste disposal. These roads will be of great good to the community sanitation and natural resource management if properly constructed so as to ease waste transportation.
Another waste reduction strategy is to encourage recyclable production of goods to allow access to recyclable products. Bins of different waste categories could be introduced about 100 metres apart within the neighbourhoods in the municipality, which can contain degradable and non degradable wastes respectively.
Furthermore companies starting up on eco-friendly solutions like recycling of plastics and other materials should be given incentives by the government of Cameroon. Loans and grants should be made available to encourage such initiatives and this will be very important to develop the green economy in the country
Volunteers who participate in stream cleanups often report a rewarding experience. In addition to providing an aesthetic and environmental benefit, cleanups reconnect citizens and the community to the waterways that have been a vital part of the nation’s history and culture. Research has shown than people are more likely to behave in ways that preserve our waterways if they are clean in the first place. If a stream bank or shoreline already has litter, people are more likely to continue littering. Individuals can take the initiative by cleaning up streamside trash and by disposing of trash properly. In this regard, the Limbe City Council should collaborate with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to pass on the message to the population.
Appropriate legislations for a comprehensive waste management law should be enacted in Cameroon. The law should allow for the harmonization of the functions of the different ministries in the waste management sector.
A more advance way in solid waste management is to introduce a system whereby the chain and life cycle of waste management can be controlled by technology. In the age of globalization there are models where information and data about waste management is run using suitable GIS systems.
New Landfills could be opened on the three outskirts locations of the Limbe municipality in other to save the travel time and save cost for the waste management company, HYSACAM. Areas around Batoke, Bimbia and Mile Four could be considered for further research in a bit to create new landfills. Also, an animal feed program can be derived from food waste. According to Post (2007) promoting animal feeding program is a preferred method of managing food waste.
If these measures are considered, Limbe will not only be termed a ‘CLEAN CITY’ as it is known now by Cameroon standards. It will be more of an ‘Environmentally Friendly’ community.
As influence as a city can be in recent development, the more wastes it generates (Memuna 2009) Urbanization increases the influence of people into urban areas leading to an increase in population and of waste generators in cities. Study shows that urbanization has been on increase since in the 1950s and is expected to continue in the next decades. As the days are coming and this actually occurs, the urban population, the volume of waste generation, the demand for housing and the demand for dump sites will consequently intensify. If these intensify dump sites are established, it will lead to possible inadequate waste management services that municipal residents and the authorities hesitate on. Moreover, the possible outcomes will be illegal accumulation of municipal waste in unwanted environments resulting to degraded environmental resources and ill-health in the city (Memuna 2009).
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