25 November 2012

Ethiopia: Sanitation Props Undignified


After 125 years of its founding, Addis Abeba has not yet reached at the height of its age to acquire the power to keep itself clean and neat for a capital city of a country, never mind being the host of the union of countries in Africa.

It often is rated as one of the 10 untidy capitals in the world, in spite of our glamorizing narratives of new buildings, roads and city centres, to say the least. We seem to be possessed by the feature of remaining steadfastly backward when it comes to keeping our city clean, a feat that ought to start at our doorsteps.

We may look out at the horizon any time of the day, in a bright sunny weather or a hazy atmosphere, and discover that even fresh air is becoming a scarce natural resource in our fair city.

The smog is perhaps amplified these days by the perennial ritual of burning trash every morning this very month. The ritual follows the 19th century deadly plague that had decimated thousands of people and livestock. Burning trash in open air may produce a community feeling the sound resonating that of a bonfire.

It, of course, may be one way to get rid of rubbish. But it could pollute the very air we breathe, forcing us to inhale hazardous gas, thus, creating a vicious circle of health problems.

Celebrating the City's 125th anniversary in full gears and colors may not only avail a rare opportunity to enjoy the festivities but may also initiate and remind everybody to use the occasion as a memento that there is more to be done to make the City a more comfortable place to live in.

Urban life demands neatness. Neatness, however, is not only a matter of decent life and pride but also a question of life and death. The habit of keeping our environment clean is said to result mainly from the lifestyles of residents or transiting people and the different cultural practices instilled in them since childhood.

At a time when the aftermath of the fourth, week-long conference on cities is still a hot issue, cynics could shrug off the rhetoric of achievements in the infrastructure area; raising the inadequacies of green areas and parks as breathing lungs, scarcity of parking lots, public libraries, play grounds, resort facilities and what have you.

All these shortcomings, however, require quite a lot of investment capital and entail carefully deliberated sequencing of priorities. This follows the timing of income generation and the ability to collect all forms of taxes.

There are, however, certain essentials that are basic. Take the issue of sanitation, for instance. Just as much as eating and drinking are basic to live so is sanitation because part of what comes in as an intake should go out as a waste, in the form of excretion, in one form or another.

The rejection also takes place even before it is streamlined into the alimentary canal. One may peal of the kernels or hard covers of fruits and sugar cane. Spitting out the residues is an issue to be recognised.

Anything that we wash like the clothes we wear or the crockeries we use also generate a large volume of sewerage that we have to get rid of. Septic tanks are only provisional facilities. They need to be connected to the collective sewerage or the open sewers as the case may be.

The smog polluting the air may also be emanating from the exhaust pipes or kitchen chimneys. When we come down to the ground and see the impacts of wastewater coming out from sewers or broken ducts, the problem is even more hazardous. It is exacerbated by the fact that the sewerage system functions by lines laid underground and are often invisible. The sewers may also get mixed up with the lines of water pipes where the contents of the sewer could easily infiltrate into the water system resulting in despicable.

A recent report on sanitation facility availability in the capital puts the figure not to exceed the 47pc mark, generously putting. The lack or almost nonexistence of public toilet services obviously compounds the problem.

People are forced to relieve their bowels anywhere around. Urination at the bottom of walls or fences, oblivious of who is watching, seems to be a social practice atypical of Addis Abeba. All the press and electronics media reporters have time and again condemned the act. But many probationers of the embarrassing deal do not seem to budge an inch.

Incidentally, city officials are have enacted laws to punish pedestrians waling or crossing roads at the wrong spot or outside the Zebra Crossing. That kind of venality ought to also consider offenders violating good practices of keeping the city clean and free from excretions, solid or liquid, against walls and fences or the backs of bus stop sheds.

But such legal actions will have to be preceded by provision of adequate public toilets or rest rooms. These are not as costly as the other amenities and facilities mentioned earlier on.

The services can be made available against payment of dimes. The public toilets can also be sources of gainful employment for many people.

The scarcity of toilet facilities has, of late, been exacerbated, following the sealing off existing toilet rooms and converting them into bed rooms, the demand of which has grown sky high. The occupiers use plastic bags to collect their excretions and throw them on the sidewalks, nocturnally. This is observed at the Kochira Area in Merkato and the many narrow tracks and paths passing through the villages of the City.

The open ditches passing through villages crossing boundaries have always been not only the causes of conflict between neighbours but also stumbling blocks of developmental activities at residential slums and quarters. Many people agree that adequate facilities are the best ways to keep our city clean and comfortable to enable us lead a comfortable and dignified life.

Many places in the capital city witness untidiness as their daily order. One such place is Merkato, the largest open market inEthiopia, as could be seen in the photograph. An overloaded container is seen serving as a focal point of throwing garbage out, with the environment polluted by it, though it is placed in the middle of a highway.

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