|A Bird's Eye View on Waste|
Malawi developed a National Environmental Action Plan in 1994. Among other things the NEAP identified nine environmental problems currently being experienced by Malawi, one of them being poor sanitation and waste management. The NEAP therefore called for concerted efforts in environmental management including improvement of sanitation and management of wastes. The NEAP also called for development of an environmental policy Environmental Management Act, which have all been developed and passed. This was also in line with international convention such as the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and other wastes and other Conventions on waste management to which Malawi is party.
Agenda 21 Chapter 21 requires all countries to develop mechanism for environmentally sound management of solid waste and sewage related issues. This requirement is closely related to the protection of the quality and supply of fresh water resources; application of integrated approaches to the development, management and use of water resources, promotion of sustainable human settlement schemes, protecting and promoting human health conditions and changing consumption patterns.
The overall requirement of environmentally sound waste management goes beyond the mere safe disposal or recovery of waste. Countries need to address the root cause of unsustainable patter of production and consumption and overall as members of the United Nations Systems, we are obliged to come up with four major waste-related programme areas including minimising wastes; maximising environmentally sound waste management re-use and recycling; promoting environmentally sound disposal and treatment and extending waste service coverage. In Malawi, the challenge includes development of public awareness initiatives in integrated waste management initiative. This requires the concomitant resources both human and financial.
Management of wastes in Malawi currently rests in the hands of various stakeholders with each stakeholder playing a specific role. Either City or Town Councils depending on the area affected manage both liquid and solid wastes. These rely on City bye-laws to enforce waste management issues. However, most of these pieces of legislation are outdated and therefore not effective. In addition, most authorities do not have the necessary capacities to enforce waste management issues let alone implement them. The bye-laws are only enforceable within the authority boundaries. As a result, most culprits have taken advantage and resorted to dumping waste outside these boundaries.
Major challenges include:
3. Waste Stream
There are various types of wastes being generated in Malawi. These include:3.1. Clinical Wastes from hospitals and clinics
While clinical waste is manageable in referral hospitals, district hospitals, health centres and clinics are not able to effectively manage their wastes. This is due to lack of resources and disposal facilities. Fuel utilising incinerators were installed in almost all the district hospitals but in most cases these are not operational. As a result some potentially hazardous wastes which ought to be incinerated find their way into landfills and other dumping sites. The other problem is that clinical waste is not segregated based on their hazardous or non-hazardousness. This result in hazardous wastes not fit for landfill disposal being disposed of in landfills. These include, but are not limited to waste sharps, such as needles, surgical blades and syringes and some clinical wastes.
The Government through the Ministry of Health developed guidelines for control of infectious diseases and infectious wastes. These include segregation and handling of waste. However hospital staffs especially those that deal with waste generation and collection has not been adequately trained and made aware of the requirements of the guidelines.
The Ministry is also in the process of securing small-scale incinerators to be used for the disposal of hospital and other hazardous or potentially hazardous wastes.3.2. Sewerage
All cities and some district assemblies have water borne sewerage disposal facilities. However it is estimated that only 15% are served with the water borne sewage reticulation system and the other 15% is served with septic tanks. Sixty-four (64) percent of the households in Malawi have some form of toilet with 61% of the rural and 94% of the urban population using toilets for disposal of excreta. The majority of the water borne sewerage reticulation systems are quite old are operating beyond their design capacity. This results in substandard effluents that find its way into surface and subsurface water bodies. In some cases these systems overflow into public waters posing an environmental and health risk problem.
Some of the systems have been upgraded to reduce the pressure, however, the problem is perpetrated by high population growth, and rural to urban migration in search for employment.3.3. Solid Waste and Litter
Cities and Municipal Councils have established landfills for disposal of solid wastes. All landfills in Malawi are not engineered; as such they are likely to generate hazardous leachate into groundwater that pose a risk to both the environment and human health. In addition, a co-ordinated system for waste characterisation has not been established in Malawi. This results in hazardous wastes being dumped in the landfills. As mentioned above, clinical waste such as waste sharps (e.g. needles, surgical blades and syringes), plastics, dried paint emulsions, waste oil, expired medicines and used bandages are a common site in the landfills. Scrap metals, rabbles are supposed to be recycled but in most cases they are dumped close to landfills or areas that are no habited. Plastic containers and waste paper are usually not properly managed.4. Recent Efforts
The Government of Malawi in 1991 established the Department of Environmental Affairs in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to co-ordinate environmental affairs in Malawi. The Department is therefore taking a leading role in waste management issues.
Malawi is in the process of developing waste management guidelines and regulations. Unlike guidelines prepared by the Ministry of Health, these cut across various types of wastes being generated in Malawi and goes beyond the city, district and town council boundaries. In addition, Malawi has also established a waste management committee, which is mandated to oversee waste management issues. This committee has been established through national stakeholder consultation. Membership of this committee is comprised of:
The Terms of Reference for the National Waste Management Committee are:
Among other things, the committee will; guide decisions in waste disposal options, assist city and district authorities in monitoring and enforcement, facilitate development of sectoral waste management guidelines and assist waste management authorities in making waste generators pay for the services which can in turn be ploughed into the system to increase resources and improve services. This is currently not very well defined.
Malawi also embanked on cleaner production technologies. Several companies engage in voluntary cleaner production initiatives. This includes reduction of waste, recycling, reclamation and pre-treatment of waste prior to discharge.
There is currently a proposal to train all institutions that are involved in production in cleaner production technologies. However this is still at the planning phase.
In terms of collection of litter and other wastes, there are NGOs that are working towards creating awareness on the collection and management of litter in Malawi. Among these NGOs are the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) and the Co-ordination Unit for Rehabilitation of the Environment (CURE). These have organised communities in urban areas to collect litter in streets.
There are also radio programme on the national radio stations on management of waste that affect the aesthetic quality of the environment and pose a risk to human health and the environment.
A National Committee has been formed comprised of:
Terms of Reference for the Waste Management Committee