12 January 2014

Tanzania: Dustbins in Daladalas... Putting the Cart Before the Horse

A COUPLE of days ago I read in one of the newspapers Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner who is also the Chairman of the Regional Consultative Council (RCC), directing the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) to embark on an operation to net commuter buses popularly known as daladalas without dustbins in a bid to keep the city clean.

Immediately after reading the article, my first instinct was post my comment on Facebook like I usually do when am at home with the 'terrorisers of my sanity' Tanesco royally decide to interrupt, but this time I hesitated after remembering the recent potato incident in Zambia.

For those who didn't hear about it, an opposition politician in Zambia was charged with defamation because he reportedly compared President Michael Sata to a potato. Frank Bwalya allegedly described President Sata as a 'chumbu mushololwa.'

The Bemba phrase connotes a sweet potato that breaks upon being bent and a person who does not take advice. If found guilty, he could be imprisoned for up to five years. Posting my sentiments about Tanesco on Facebook has made me to be rather trigger happy and taking into account the source of the article was the President of Bongo City, you can understand my hesitation.

Putting jokes aside though, I think an operation to net daladalas operating without dustbins is putting the cart before the horse. Personally I think what is needed (though I am clueless on how to implement it) is to instil in people the sense of being responsible towards the environment.

An individual should feel ashamed when they throw rubbish on the ground. When we reach the point where a person would rather keep say orange peels in their pocket rather than throw them on the ground that is when such operations should be introduced.

My elder brother had never been conscious of littering and he learnt the hard way. Some years back, one of his bosses visited Tanzania and he was given the task to drive him to Morogoro to oversee one of their projects there. Somewhere along the way, his boss produced sweets and shared with him.

Graciously he received the sweets, unwrapped one, popped it into his mouth and very casually opened his window and tossed the wrapper out. The shock that he saw in the eyes of his boss could have scared Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street himself!

His boss made him stop the car, pick up the wrapper and gave him a lecture on keeping the environment clean to last him an eternity. The lesson worked and today he is as straight as a ruler. I am not advocating that whole populations are given tongue lashings though if that can help, well, be it.

I am suggesting that more public awareness should be generated and the RCC should embark on using social media and other forms to reach the people. I truly believe that there are many ways of putting the message across, very simply and in ways that are not expensive.

For instance, the granddaddy of all anti-littering adverts is the famous Crying Indian. The advert was first broadcast on Earth Day in 1971, when environmental awareness was coming to the fore. This advert is barely a minute long and used a native India in the United States.

The man is seen in a canoe, negotiating his way through a polluted water body and when he disembarks, the shore line is heavily littered. He walks to the roadside and a motorist hurls the remains of his lunch and it lands on his feet and when the camera goes to his face, there are tears rolling down.

As the saying goes, message sent and delivered! I have to say that I sympathise with the Dar es Salaam authorities because honestly, the city stinks. While litter cleanups are important, the best way to reduce litter is to change the behaviour of litterers.

This often involves showing litter and those who create it, as uncool, unclean and just plain disgusting. While this is being done, the authorities should make sure that as people's behaviours are changing, there are dustbins in every corner for people to throw their trash in.

Stay blessed.

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