Changing the tide of waste management in Bamenda, Cameroon

Waste around homes and streets in Bamenda, Cameroon.
Waste around homes and streets in Bamenda, Cameroon.

Edwina Acha and Nfor Godlove

Related Topics:
Plastic, Pollution, Public Health

Audio Transcript:

Laura Malou: The growing mountains of garbage and trash represent not only an attitude of indifference to the valuable natural environment but also an economic and a public health problem.
Hello and welcome to this radio production on waste management in the city of Bamenda. I am your host, Laura Malou.
I urge you to please stay tuned as we journey through the path of waste and see how we can eradicate this practice.
Safe management of waste involves three key principles, reduction of unnecessary waste, and separation of general waste from hazardous waste, and waste treatment that reduces risk on the community.
In Bamenda, the problem of inefficient municipal solid waste management is endemic as people have been concentrating more on the ongoing crisis hitting government forces and separatist fighters while poor waste management is leading to a major health crisis.

A denizen of the town, Cecilia Follah, feels the town has been abandoned as every corner of the street, market, are covered with garbage causing a reduction on road sizes, hence unnecessary traffic and accidents.

Cecilia Follah: Talking about waste management here in Bamenda, it’s really a deplorable situation because we, as city dwellers, we feel abandoned. You walk in the street and every corner is full of garbage. There’s no control. The individuals decide where to dump their garbage, and no one says anything. Even in the markets, on the roads, everywhere, people are walking on top of garbage. And this has led to a lot of traffic jams because the cars barely find where to pass due to this situation.

A Major road in the city of Bamenda (T. Junction)
Heavy garbage on a major road in the North West Region of Cameroon.

And speaking as a mother, this has really affected my children because my environment, everywhere is full of dust bins. And the pollution from it contaminates their health. Most of the time, they have skin rashes, respiratory problems, and even infections. And this has led to a lot of damage. But I think that this situation can be remedied if personnel are trained on waste management or recycling of waste. This is already been done in the West region. And I think if it’s applied here in Bamenda, it’s going to go a long way to help us, the local population, and the town at large.

Laura Malou: It is challenging that the management is becoming cumbersome as these (are) sites (which) have been a rapid accumulation of dirt along major roads and streets. In effect, it is sad to say human interaction with the environment is gradually causing a negative impact especially on the socio-economic development of the city due to the inadequate trash cans and the burning down of HYSACAM cars, a company in charge of waste in the town of Bamenda by separatists.

Waste is a global issue. If not properly managed, it poses a threat to public health and the environment. The unresolved garbage blocks and drains spread waterborne diseases. Madame Gwanyama Noella, a medical practitioner, says the population of Bamenda may face a bigger health crisis than the ongoing war if something is not done.

Madame Gwanyama Noella: When the waste is dumped carelessly it blocks the drainage, leading to (areas of) stagnant water which are breeding places for mosquitos and thus a source of deadly water. This can lead to gastrointestinal tract diseases like cholera, typhoid, dysentery. And as a breeding ground for mosquitoes leading to an increased rate of malaria. Also, some of this waste can release gasses such as methane and carbon dioxide, which are not good for the health of humans. So it can affect the respiratory system, causing signs and symptoms such cough, difficulties in breathing, and chest tightness.

Laura Malou: On this path, the Bamenda deputy city council mayor Mr. Ndoh David Chi, says waste management should not only be that of the council alone, it should be a collective effort.

Plastic recycling in the west region, (the Ndeh council of the west region)

Ndoh David Chi: We’ve tried to advise the population on how to help. The waste issue should not be that on the city council alone, it should be a collective effort. But you understand that government and the council have always put up measures in order to manage waste because waste is going to be a hazard.

Laura Malou: A concerned Bamenda city dweller, Hope Lih shares, waste management in Bamenda is complex. Prior to the crisis, HYSACAM disposed waste in the town. As of now, there’s no waste disposal company in the city. He adds, “The effects are much. The government should impose fines on recalcitrant fellows to compel them to dump their heaps wherein necessary.”

Hope Lih: Yeah, waste management in Bamenda is a very complex question. I can’t at least say I know a specific company that manages waste in Bamenda. Prior to the crisis, we used to have HSYACAM, but due to the hostilities to it, their cars, their automobiles, the company stopped or ceased their activities in Bamenda.

This sort of thing, I think, lies on the government. You know, waste disposal is something cost intensive. An individual can’t manage it. So if the government can put in funds, or if the government can bring in an effective company that can manage the waste, I think the problem will be history. To get a company that has experience, and that has the capacity, has the necessary equipment that can dispose or treat the waste.

And it’s up to the government (and) the council to also put trash cans everywhere in the city so that even those moving around with banana peels, mango peels, orange peels should dump it in the specific waste bins, not just literally everywhere in the city.

So the city council should put in fines to those recalcitrant fellows and to compel them to turn their heaps in the dustbin. Not dumping it 10 meters (from the) dustbin. So if they are fined and the people have been disciplined of littering the waste everywhere, I think it will also be a solution, that should be wrote. Because even the councils or even the company wants to dispose the waste when there are no roads. How are they going to carry the waste? So the government should make sure, or the council should make sure their assets route to every dustbin, where the waste can be collected.

Laura Malou: According to the Wealth Health Organization (WHO), the total number of waste generated from health care activities are about 85%. Generally this is non-hazardous waste. The remaining 15% is considered hazardous- that may be infectious, toxic, or radioactive.

Waste on unmanaged in the Bamenda food market
Littered waste in the surroundings of food market.

Every year an estimated 16 billion injections are administered the world over, but not all needles and syringes are properly disposed of afterward and so, measures to ensure safe and environmentally sound management of waste can prevent adverse health and environmental hazards as waste composition by farmers will help bring out a healthy soil for crops.

Organic waste will absorb water for crops, hence the reduction of waste. Say “no” to single use plastics. Laws that deal with proper waste disposal will be reinforced. Education on personal hygiene, responsible education on personal hygiene responsibility will be reducing unsustainable practices and garbage.

Efforts towards management education can be encouraged by individuals, local authorities and communities. Comparatively, The Nde Council in the West region of Cameroon has, over the years, recycled waste materials (plastics) in bringing out water bottles and many more. The community in the west region keeps working towards waste recycling.

Mrs. Edwina Acha of the Bamenda City blames her inability to finance waste materials (plastics) into water bottles as the population of Bamenda faces a problem of water safety. She adds that, if the Bamenda community will emulate the Bafousam community, by recycling waste, then the rampant heeps on major roads and streets will be reduced. The future seeks to provide a safe and a sustainable environment for the next generation.

This radio podcast has been ensured by a U.S.-based media outlet Planet Forward. For editing material it has been ensured by Desmond Ateiyhyiem. Morally and financially assisted by mom, Madame Naku Martina. For presentation, I have been Laura Malou.

Photos by Edwina Acha and Nfor Godlove.

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