Past, present and future perspectives

Management of pollution and waste in Southern Africa

Per capita solid waste generation averages 0.7 kg/day in Zimbabwe, while in Tanzania it is 1 kg/day (Chenje 2000). More people living in urban areas means greater levels of waste generation. As municipalities cannot cope with this, large quantities of solid wastes are not collected, are not treated, or are not disposed of in designated sanitary landfills. On average, less than twothirds of urban households in the sub-region have access to garbage collection services. The situation is most extreme in Lesotho, where only 7 per cent of urban households have garbage collection facilities (UNCHS quoted in WRI, UNEP, UNDP & World Bank 1998). As a consequence, large quantities of solid waste are illegally dumped or burned, resulting in increased pollution of both the air and soil. By contrast, Windhoek in Namibia recycles 4.5 per cent of waste, 3 per cent is incinerated, and the rest is disposed of in sanitary landfill (UNCHS 2001c). In Gaborone (Botswana) and Maputo (Mozambique) nearly all solid waste is disposed of in an open dump rather than a sanitary landfill (UNCHS 2001c). This gives rise to unhygienic conditions where the proliferation of disease vectors is facilitated, and risks of surface and groundwater contamination are high. Methane emissions may also be dangerous to nearby residents and contribute to atmospheric pollution and global climate change.

Privatization of waste collection services has been encouraged by structural adjustment programmes in an attempt to raise additional funds. Unfortunately, this has, to an extent, worsened the problem of improper waste dumping, as companies sometimes avoid using designated dumping sites where they are supposed to pay a fee

The major constraint on proper management of solid waste in cities of Southern Africa is inadequate finance (UNCHS 1996). Privatization of waste collection services has been encouraged by structural adjustment programmes in an attempt to raise additional funds (see Box 2g.4). Unfortunately, this has, to an extent, worsened the problem of improper waste dumping, as companies sometimes avoid using designated dumping sites where they are supposed to pay a fee.

Box 2g.4 Improving waste management in Dar es Salaam

In Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) less than three per cent of the city's solid waste is collected due to lack of appropriate vehicles and inadequate cost recovery (UNCHS & UNEP 1997). As part of a new Environmental Planning and Management Process, waste management services have been privatised, an emergency clean up operation was launched, and management of disposal sites has improved. New City Council bylaws were introduced to facilitate collection of revenues and innovative fiscal incentives for rehabilitating the fleet of vehicles were also established.

Source: UNCHS & UNEP 1997.

The slow pace of development of urban infrastructure in Southern Africa has resulted in increasing traffic congestion throughout the sub-region, with central business districts of most major cities having inadequate public transport networks and parking space. However, the sub-region has also witnessed a significant rise in the number of cars, currently translating as 51 persons per car (WRI, UNEP, UNDP & World Bank 1998) compared to 197 persons per car 20 years ago (WRI, UNEP & UNDP 1992). The advanced age of most of the vehicles, and heavy dependence on leaded fuel and diesel contribute to high levels of smog and particularly lead pollution.

Other urban sources of air pollution include industrial emissions and smoke arising from domestic consumption of coal, wood, and charcoal. Human health impacts include elevated incidence of acute respiratory infections such as asthma and bronchitis. Buildings are corroded and surrounding plant communities are subjected to toxic pollutants.

Most cities in the sub-region have established air quality standards and have monitoring programmes in place. In South Africa, where the problem is greatest because of the highest density of industries and vehicles, an Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (1965) stipulates the latest technologies to be used in controlling noxious and offensive emissions. The same act, which is being updated, makes provision for control of smoke from industrial operations by establishing grounds for prosecution of offenders, and empowers the Minister of Transport to make regulations regarding the exhaust emissions from vehicles operating on public roads. However, enforcement of this regulation is weak owing to lack of resources for monitoring and prosecution. Some municipalities (including Cape Town and Durban) also have bylaws preventing the burning of refuse, but again, these are not always adhered to.

Towards sustainable urban development in Southern Africa

In addition to the specific responses listed above, a number of policies and strategies have been put in place at national level. In Malawi, a national housing policy has been developed, while in South Africa an urban development strategy was recently launched for discussion. In Zimbabwe, a policy of decentralization encourages the development of rural service centres, commonly known as growth points, to relieve the pressures of population and pollution on major urban centres. However, the policy has not met with much success, as the service centres continue to be shunned by many, probably because of the complexity of push and pull factors that contribute to urban growth rates.

Legislation requiring environmental impact assessment prior to development is another recent feature in most Southern African municipalities, and local development plans taking into consideration the priorities for integrated environmentally-sensitive and socially-acceptable development have been widely adopted. Maseru (Lesotho), Lilongwe (Malawi), Maputo (Mozambique), Windhoek (Namibia), East Rand (South Africa), Bulawayo, Chegutu, Gweru, Harare and Mutare (Zimbabwe) have all put in place local environmental plans and implemented them to some extent (UNCHS 2001c). The City of Cape Town approved an Integrated Metropolitan Management Policy in 2001 and implementation of a number of strategies for tackling air pollution, litter and illegal dumping, and for creating open space and managing environmental education has begun (City of Cape Town 2001). Funding is still the major restriction for many municipalities, and alternative strategies are required to boost local authorities' capacities.