BY EDGAR BRANDT
I recently asked my 11-year old daughter why people litter. She said people litter for two reasons; either because they are lazy or because they don’t know any better. Her answers astounded me because they showed me how observant a child of her age can be as she recounted the numerous times she saw garbage being thrown out of moving vehicles and pedestrians ignoring rubbish bins to instead clutter the streets with filth. However, the real reason Windhoek has dropped from first place, as the cleanest city in Africa to the current tenth place is slightly more complex.
For one, Windhoek’s population has been mushrooming steadily for two decades now. More people means more facilities like rubbish bins and public toilets are necessary to cater for the rising population. Secondly, the number of public servants available to ensure the cleanliness of the capital is not sufficient, which means that, more often than not, certain areas are neglected. And thirdly, if residents are not constantly reminded to help the municipality to keep the city clean then it is a lost cause as without cooperation between two parties then keeping Windhoek clean is a lost cause.
Information provided by the City of Windhoek indicate that the annual operational and capital budget for the city’ Solid Waste Management Division, which is responsible for cleaning the city and for repairing damaged or vandalised infrastructure, is about N$149 million.
When this amount is divided into 365 days it works out to just over N$408 000 the city spends per day to keep the streets clean and to repair infrastructure like traffic lights and street lights that are mostly damaged on weekends and particularly at month end. However, over N$400 000 a day has not done much for the capital city to retain its ranking as the cleanest city in Africa that it so proudly held at the dawn of the new millennium.
The latest rankings by Africa Ranking show that Windhoek has now dropped to tenth position, with South Africa’s Cape Town now considered the cleanest city on the continent. Second is Port Louis in Mauritius, third is South Africa’s Johannesburg, fourth is Kenya’s Nairobi, fifth is Botswana’s Gaborone, sixth is Tunis in Tunisia, seventh is Accra in Ghana, eighth is Libreville in Gabon and ninth is Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
Nevertheless, the City of Windhoek spokesperson, Joshua Amukugo, says the city wants to change the mindset of its residents and have therefore embarked on clean up efforts such as the ‘Mayoral Clean Up Campaign’ and the ‘Catch them Young Campaign.’ These campaigns hope to instil a sense of pride in residents to resist littering and damaging public property. Amukugo admits that keeping the city clean is a mammoth task as more and more people flock to the city in search of jobs and an overall better life. Part of the problem, he says, is to avail the necessary services to deal with the massive urban influx.
“The section of Customer Education and Marketing at Solid Waste Management Division is mainly responsible for educating and marketing sold waste management related activities. We have school and communities programs were our staffs educate schools and communities on waste management systems and their importance thereof. We also have various marketing activities which run on radios, television, billboards, newspapers and mobile trailers,” said Amukugo.
He also noted that the Solid Waste Management Division, with the assistance of the City Police, would soon be in a position to fine litter bugs, regardless of whether they are motorists or pedestrians.
Currently the City of Windhoek has over 300 permanent positions available for cleaning duties but only about 180 of these have been filled. The City of Windhoek also employs 19 Ward Contractors that have an additional 400 employees. In terms of vehicles the Solid Waste Management Division has a fleet of 118 vehicles, with a replacement value of approximately N$100 million, at its disposal. The division has one office facility in the Northern Industrial Area, eight landfill sites and transfer stations and also has one waste treatment that is being constructed.
“There are sufficient garbage bins such as skip containers, wheelie bins, street refuse bins, pole refuse bins and annually areas in need of bins are identified and supplied with bins. All household connected with City are issued with a wheelie bin and they can increase the number upon request,” Amukugo noted. The City of Windhoek has distributed about 48 000 green 240-litre Wheelie-Bins, 450 orange skip Containers, 15 green bottle recycling skips and over 800 pole refuse and street bins.
But these trash cans do not seem to be sufficient for a city whose population is estimated to be in the region of 500 000 people as is evident from the quickly deteriorating ranking of the cleanest cities in Africa. Even if the city had enough trash cans for all the residents in all the neighbourhoods it wouldn’t really do any good if people don’t use them.