Kasungu — Kasungu municipality is becoming one of the densely populated places as urbanization spreads far and wide.
People have found Kasungu a paradise as it offers some opportunities in agriculture, business and some employment opportunities both in private and public sectors.
The influx of people to the green gold town, as it is popularly called because of its leading production in tobacco, has also brought in some problems.
There is more waste generated, both liquid and solid, than it is managed
The worst nightmare for the people of Kasungu municipality is that people are living, working and plying their businesses in areas where piles of wastes lie uncollected.
Japhet Banda is a resident of the town who mostly uses the Kasungu Main Market. He says he is annoyed by poor sanitation and waste management at the main market.
Banda says there are always piles of garbage which he believes are a health hazard.
"The hygiene aspect of the market is neglected," says Banda "The workers sweep the market but it takes time to remove garbage because there are no dumping sites and it seems the municipal council is not concerned with our health."
Banda also laments the state of toilets and the sewer system that are not properly managed.
"The market is the only place that has public toilets and there are only five toilets to cater for a very large population that uses the market.
Mostly, the toilets are not taken care of and the stand alone sewage system is not that good," adds Banda.
The leadership of the Market is equally concerned with the state of waste management in the market.
Chairperson Bannet Sanudi says that for several times, they have brought to the attention of the council issues of how wastes are being managed but there has been no change.
"The toilet near the tavern is just worse. Tools like bins, rakes and shovels used to clean the market are not enough," Sanudi says.
Away from the central business area to the residents, the situation is even worse. Piles of garbage are left in site for so many days without collection.
Kasungu Municipal Council (KUMC) says its capacity to handle waste has been undermined due to lack of resources.
However, the council says it is trying its best to make sure that at least solid waste is being cleared and disposed properly.
"We are doing all we can to have a clean town. That is why we intend to procure more cleaning materials and also planning to have a proper dumping site," says Martin Kadyakapita, public relations officer for the municipal council.
The current dump site 11 Kilometres away from the town is unfenced and unmanaged open site.
Liquid waste management also leaves a lot to be desired with no proper sewer systems that can take liquid wastes to a single place for treatment. The situation is worsened by erratic water supply which forces people to use pit latrines.
Pit latrines in areas where Central Region Water Board provides water is against the laws, but they are a common sight.
Funny Mdala, another Kasungu resident living in a location close to the municipal town, has no kind words for CRWB.
"We have taps and flushing toilets that are a white elephant. We go weeks without water and we are forced to have pit latrines within our small plots," she says.
WaterAid is a nongovernmental organization dealing with issues of water and sanitation. Recently, the organization in collaboration with another organization in the same sector called Mineral and appropriate Technologies Applicable in Malawi (MATAMA) sanctioned an assessment to see the situation of solid and liquid waste management in Kasungu Municipality.
The results of the assessment showed that the municipality has a very long way to go in managing its waste.
Conducted by Counterpoint Development Consultants, the assessment showed that there are growing waste management challenges considering the ever increasing population consequent and intermittent water supply.
"Population growth has seen more people living more closely together and this has put more stress on available water sources and networks," the assessment report states in part.
The consultants recommend an improved sewer system for the town. But with the erratic water supply dogging the municipality, achieving such a feat is just another farfetched dream.
Central Region Water Board scheme manager for Kasungu, Mussa Chimtsimbo, concedes that the board cannot supply enough water for such a system at the moment.
"It's impossible. Already we are not producing enough water, having such a system is not possible," says Chimtsimbo.
Going by the assessment, solid waste management is now a crisis.
"Households usually burn the waste, while some bury it. However, majority leave it in open spaces where it stays uncollected," observes the assessment.
There are situations where the council collects garbage from collection sites but experience has shown that it takes time for this to be done.
The assessment further reveals that most institutions have faulty sewer systems.
"There are collapsed sewer lines, cracked and leaking oxidation ponds, leakage and pollution. These lead to contamination of water sources in some cases," reads the report
Within the municipality, there is a hospital, a prison, two secondary schools, a teachers' college and Agriculture Development Division just to mention some of the institutions.
Looking ahead, MATAMA's Project Manager Samuel Muhone says the assessment is an eye opener as it will help find what interventions can be taken to save the situations.
It will be a delighting sight to see a clean Kasungu municipality one day, but until then, people have to live with the waste.