Some years ago, the city of Owerri could boast of being one of the cleanest state capitals in the country. But looking at the situation today, one can easily tell that a lot of work needs to be done if we are to return the state capital to its former glory. The Imo ENTRACO and Imo State Waste Management Agency seem to be making efforts to keep Owerri clean again, but their efforts have not yielded good results because they are yet to curb the menace of indiscriminate refuse disposal within Owerri and its environs.
An announcement was made over the radio some time ago; enamoring government’s approved refuse dumps in Owerri. I listened carefully to know the closest location where I could drop off my household refuse without any feeling of guilt. When I heard Rochas Foundation Roundabout mentioned, it dawned on me that the people who made that announcement actually expected people to dump the refuse on the ground, because there has never been a waste bin at that location which is the center connecting the two major flyovers in Owerri. One will be more worried to see that there is no single refuse bin along this long stretch.
This particular road has many other adjoining roads leading to densely populated neighborhoods like Umuodu axis, Prof Avenue, Amakohia/Works Layout and other streets. All the people in these areas are expected to dump their refuse at the Rochas Roundabout or any other location they consider closer. To many, the closest place to dump refuse becomes any place they can drop it without any interference or harassment.
Many residents tie up household refuse in nylon bags and dump them anywhere they deem convenient along the road. This makes every spot a potential refuse dump. When it rains, the rubbishes are washed into the drainages, blocking them, thereby causing flood and erosion. The few residents, whose conscience will not let them drop refuse indiscriminately, will pile the refuse behind their homes until whenever they have time and convenience to dispose the refuse. This exposes the households and the entire neighbourhood to the risk of a cholera outbreak.
Owerri is getting dirtier because the population is increasing while the few Waste Bins are disappearing. Indiscriminate disposal of refuse will continue as long as there are no waste bins to signify government approved refuse dumps. It will only take one person to drop a bag of refuse at a particular point, and the place will turn to a refuse dump for many others.
The Imo ENTRACO and Imo State Waste Management Agency should know that they cannot enforce proper refuse disposal without providing waste bins at strategic locations, considering proximity and population of the neighbourhood. Residents should not be expected to go very long distances to dispose off household refuse, only to drop them at a so-called government approved refuse dumps with no bins.
The private sector could be partnered to bring about a more effective waste disposal and management system in the state. Smaller vehicles could be employed for the evacuation of refuse bins if they are made available in some streets where big trucks cannot easily gain access. The bins can also be manned by enforcers who will ensure that residents throw refuse directly into the bins without littering them on the ground. In so doing, employment opportunities will be created while keeping the state capital clean.
Owerri will only become clean again when the government rolls out a refuse disposal system that will bring the disposal points closer to the residents in a more hygienic arrangement. Only then can we avert the impending danger of a cholera outbreak and threat of environmental degradation occasioned by indiscriminate refuse disposal within the metropolis.