Burundi: the eternal challenge of waste management

AA/Gitega/Yvan Rukundo

Buterere, Ntahangwa commune, north of Bujumbura, the economic capital of Burundi. This is where the city’s only public dump is located. Located not far from the houses, the situation is unimaginable.

Once there, foul odors greet passers-by and swarms of flies buzz and hover everywhere. Rotten food remains, plastic, … In short, all kinds of household waste piled up. Pickup trucks come to dump their cargo there from the different districts of Bujumbura.

Not far from these stinking heaps are habitable houses. The tenants no longer know which saint to turn to: “It’s really very difficult to live here. This bad smell really hurts us, it makes our locality uninhabitable. We only risk polluted, stinking air. Our health is in danger”, testifies Oscar Ndiho, a neighbor of this dump. He especially fears for his children.

“For us adults, we are already used to it. But it’s very difficult for our children to get used to it, ”he regrets, noting that if he had the means, he would have already left this neighborhood. And to another resident to add that the situation worsens during the rainy season: “There, it becomes a real ordeal for our neighborhood. In addition to the nauseating odors, flies, mosquitoes, … swarm everywhere. »

Buterere is not the only one to experience this situation. In different districts of Bujumbura, improvised dumps are set up. Case of Buyenzi, Mukaza commune, in the center of Bujumbura. Very close to the Ntahangwa river, at 9th avenue, this is where the vast majority of waste from this district, or from Bwiza, ends up. And it’s right in the neighborhood.

Not far from there, in the Bwiza zone, Jabe district, some residents throw their waste into the Ntahangwa river. Final destination: Lake Tanganyika, which nevertheless provides more than 90% of the water consumed in the city of Bujumbura.

In the city center, the municipal administration had made an effort by installing public garbage cans. “But they are often overwhelmed because the services that were supposed to empty them and transport them to Buterere are not regular,” laments Eddy, a bus driver, met at the south parking lot.

-A situation that persists

To overcome this problem, in 2017, the municipal authorities granted the monopoly to Bujumbura Cleaning Company (BCCO) to take care of the collection of household waste. There, each household was asked to pay around US$0.9. But, the company proved ineffective.

The same authorities then decided to put an end to this monopoly and allowed thirteen other cooperatives to join the field of household waste removal in the town hall of Bujumbura. This time, BCCO will stay with only the Mukaza commune.

Unfortunately, after a while, these cooperatives did not keep their promises. When contacted, one of the managers of these cooperatives told us that they had problems recovering the money. “Some households have flatly refused to pay the collection fees for this waste. And under these conditions, it was impossible for us to continue the collection. Because we had to pay our workers, buy fuel, etc,” he says, on condition of anonymity. He does not hide the fact that all these cooperatives have erased themselves.

Today, city dwellers often manage with young people who collect this waste on an individual basis. And these tons of waste end up in the three main rivers crossing Bujumbura: Muha, Kanyosha and Ntahangwa. And the final destination is Lake Tanganyika which nevertheless provides more than 90% of the water consumed in the city of Bujumbura.

-the recycling ?

To better manage waste, Tharcisse Ndayizeye, an environmentalist, proposes three actions: “reduce, reuse and recycle waste. “All the other ways are only ephemeral,” he insists, also suggesting the creation of waste recycling industries and providing them with facilities for the reuse of waste. “The country must also have landfill sites that meet environmental standards,” he continues, noting the need to create a well-maintained landfill transit site for each municipality. “The installation of mobile garbage boats in public places can put an end to improvised dumps in the city of Bujumbura”.

Asked by Anadolu, this university professor explains that poorly managed landfills have negative impacts on the environment. “It is a question, among other things, of scattering light waste due to the wind or soluble by water, the attraction of vermin, the release of pollutants into the water and the soil, thus contaminating the water table and the rivers. »

For his part, Albert Mbonerane, former Minister of the Environment and now defender of the environment, political will is a prerequisite.

Approached by Anadolu, he regrets that despite the law prohibiting non-biodegradable plastic bags, we see that these bags and other plastics are thrown here and there in the town hall of Bujumbura.

He too offers waste recycling. “We also need a public awareness campaign to teach them how to sort because not all waste is of the same nature. Household waste can be used in composting for the production of manure”.

This former minister also finds that it is necessary to revitalize the Municipal Technical Services (Setemu) which was responsible for the collection and management of waste for a long time.

And according to data from the Center for the Production and Distribution of Christian Literature (CEPRODILIC), 85% of waste is thrown into the rivers. “Only 15% arrive at the main Mubone dump, in Buterere”, indicates this organization, specifying that in the town hall of Bujumbura, an individual produces an average of 0.6 kg of household waste per day, or 217 kg per year. According to her, if we make a projection, there will be more than two million tons of waste produced in the city of Bujumbura until 2033.

Besides solid waste, it should be noted that the management of liquid waste is also a serious challenge. Indeed, around 1/3 of the city of Bujumbura is connected to the only wastewater treatment plant that this city has. This means a population of around 100,000 people according to 2018 data. And built to receive 40,000 m3 of wastewater per day, it only treats 15,000 m3 at best. And according to municipal data, the city of Bujumbura had 1.2 million inhabitants in 2021.

-A clean city, the concern of the municipal administration

For their part, the municipal authorities are keen to make the city of Bujumbura clean. When questioned, Rénovat Sindayihebura, administrator of Mukaza said he was very concerned about this situation. “We want waste to be better managed. This is why we often organize campaigns to collect this waste, install public bins in car parks and other gathering places”.

For him, Bujumbura must be clean like other developed cities. Only, he regrets that some people have not yet understood: “They throw waste in the street, plastic bottles, bags, boxes, leftover food in the gutters, etc. »

With regard to household waste, this administrative officer asks the owners of the plots to install dustbins: “And the latter must have lids so that the flies do not affect the kitchen utensils or other domestic materials. »
Regarding the lack of public landfills, Mr. Sindayihebura indicates that this is one of the priorities of the town hall. “There is a project to install a larger public dump in Muzinda, Bubanza province, west of the country, outside the economic capital. And this, to replace that of Buterere, overwhelmed.

-Private initiatives at work

Faced with this situation, private initiatives exist. This is the case of the Great Lakes Initiative for Communities Empowerment (GLICE), which collects electronic and electrical waste. By way of illustration, Roger Waedraogo, its founder indicates that in six months, he collects at least ten thousand tonnes of waste electronic equipment at the end of its life. “After collection, we move either to repair or to dismantling for recovery and depollution. And some parts of this equipment such as motherboards are exported for recovery,” he says.

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Burundi: the eternal challenge of waste management

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