Waste management: What is the way forward? Part I
Monday, April 21, 2008
Gambia's Waste Problem
It used to be that most everything was reused or recycled in Gambia, now it seems we have become a buy and throw-away society. With a small land base and the Gambian River as one of its major food sources, Gambia can least afford to continue with its present waste accumulation.
If you are not aware of the problem, just take a walk along the shoreline of the Atlantic or the banks of the Gambia River where you will see all types of waste washed onto the shore line and the banks.
You will see waste like Styrofoam, plastics and items of old clothing, shoes and more. Or you can just look around you. We throw trash any where. Even at the beach where we leave our food containers to be washed away by the Atlantic.
If we continue in the current pattern of accumulation of waste, the next generation will have to address waste from millions of plastic containers and bags, electronics and computer parts, synthetic fabrics and apparel and the list goes on. These things are not biodegradable and as they photo-degrade over hundreds of years they release chemicals into the environment.
Other hazardous products that end up in our waste stream batteries, automotive fluids; and hazardous household waste, (HHW), such as, oil-based paints, pesticides, and automotive fluids.
These products are toxic and can be harmful to the environment and public health. For instance batteries contain lead that can end up in fish or leak onto soil potentially exposing humans, particularly children, to lead. Lead causes reduced learning, hyper-activity and behavioral problems, including violence.
To protect the public health, city governments, supported by the state, need a HHW and business hazardous waste (BHW) collection program. Toxins from waste can pollute our soil and surface and ground waters. Soil contamination poses human health risks through children playing on dumps or through scavenging, or reuse of dump sites. Ground water is the source we tap for wells and bore holes.
Surface waters include rivers, lakes, ponds and oceans. Waste pollution can potentially contaminate marine life in the Gambia River and Atlantic Ocean, thereby releasing toxins into our food chain.
Walking around the back streets of any Greater Banjul city you find what appears to be illegal dumps. Human health risks center on illegal dumps' ability to provide breeding places for insects, rodents, and other pests.
Dumpsites with tires are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Tires can hold large quantities of stagnant water. This water allows the mosquitoes - which might carry malaria or other dangerous diseases - to breed 100 times faster than normal. Illegal dumps can contaminate surface and ground water. Depending on location, dumps can keep water from draining which may lead to flooding. Illegal dumps can also pose a fire risk; disrupt wildlife habitats, and present physical hazards to human health.
The waste problem is very complex. American and European countries primarily depend on landfills and incineration (burning) to handle their waste. However, these practices have created communities who are sick and dying from exposure to the chemical pollution caused by landfills into the soil, surface and ground waters, and air pollution caused by incineration.
Author: Abdoulie John