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Draft new policy to manage solid waste

COMMENTARY
By Prof Jacob K. Kibwage | July 31st 2013

By Prof Jacob K. Kibwage

Kenya: Poor management of common solid waste — food, bones, paper, textiles, plastics, leather, rubber, glass, scrap metals, grass and wood among others — is worse in Kenya’s major cities and towns. However, smaller towns also face similar challenges.

Amounts of garbage collected and disposed in most towns range between 10-40 per cent, which is a clear sign of a horrible situation.

Due to historical poor waste disposal practices by municipal authorities, members of the public and aviation agencies like Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and Kenya Civil aviation Authority (KCAA) have strongly resisted establishment of new landfill, due to lack of assurance and written commitments to observe environmental standards.

Wrong attitude

The major shortcomings of the present Solid Waste Management (SWM) system include insufficient financial outlays, lack of appropriate equipment or technology, poorly trained manpower, limited or non-existent political and institutional support, absence of a systematic approach from the generation to disposal points and poor community attitudes towards environmental cleanliness.

Others are lack of space or land and increased public opposition to establishment of new sanitary landfills and transfer stations in their neighbourhood, and climate change.

Constrained budget

Mismanagement of these wastes typically has resulted in pollution of the natural environment and continues to pose substantial danger to public health and welfare.

Due to rapid urban population growth in the last three decades, management of solid wastes will remain one of the most costly services to be provided by National and the 47 newly-created County Governments because it will typically absorb 20 to 40 per cent of their annual budgets to make an impact.

As the magnitude of the problem continues to grow year by year, the Government continues to lay emphasis on the self-financing of the municipal services due to the financial and budgetary constraints.

The service will remain inefficient and ineffective, with most of the refuse generated remaining uncollected, and many zones receiving no regular attention if major reforms in the sector are not urgently initiated at policy and institutional levels.

Involvement of the people and all stakeholders will be a key factor to the success of waste management strategies at the National and County levels.

I urgently recommend for drafting of a new policy that will lead to establishment of new institutions at national, county and ward levels to deal with the problem.

The policy should establish the National Waste Management Authority (NAWAMA) and 47 County-based Solid Waste Management Companies.

A Solid Waste Management Act and revision of the existing waste management regulations by outlining the roles, activities and operations of all stakeholders must be drafted and passed as a matter of urgency by parliament.

Key stakeholders in the sector reforms will include the proposed National Solid Waste Management agency, County-based SWM companies, Ministries in-charge of Environment and Urban Development, Nema, private collectors or transporters and informal street and dump site waste pickers.

Others are non-governmental and community based organisations, generators, dealers, traders (importers and exporters), residents/ business/ neighbourhood associations, recycling industries, development partners and ward level committees.

The National SWM agency proposed should be hived off the department of SWM at the new Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and the relevant sections in Nema.

The same laws and regulations should use an integrated SWM approach by providing guidelines on waste reduction programs, storage, transfer, collection, disposal, treatment and recovery systems and waste trade.

This will lead to efficiency, effectiveness, improved environmental quality and human life through improved incomes in major cities and towns in the whole country.

The proposed reforms will generate over one million green jobs in the short term and act as a climate mitigation strategy. 

The writer is Dean, School of Environment and Natural Resources Management, South Eastern Kenya University.

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