Dar es Salaam — The management of electronic waste remains a major challenge in Tanzania, despite numerous efforts by the government and environment stakeholders to address the problem.
A recent report by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) has outlined a plethora of hurdles in the production, collection, transportation, dismantling and disposal of e-waste, threatening lives of people and the environment.
Report findings show that the country does not have regulations and guidelines already in place, on e-waste management. And even though some laws are still in the making, there are concerns that key stakeholders were sidelined in the formative stages of the pieces of regulations and guidelines, which are awaiting approval.
To make matters worse, there is the irony that e-waste issues are not enshrined in Local Government Authorities (LGAs) by-laws.
The report also shows that e-waste activities lack funding, adequately trained personnel, equipment, proper disposal facilities, and that the so-called strategic plans were unrealistic, lacking proper record keeping, awareness and capacity building.
According to the audit report, e-waste activities have limited sharing of information, poor monitoring and evaluation including limited inspection, use of unregistered dealers, weak reporting of licensed companies and LGAs, inadequate feedback and evaluation management.
The audit shows that Tanzania lacks mechanisms to support sustainable growth of e-waste management and that existing legal and institutional frameworks had no full support to effective management of e-waste.
It was also noted that the Vice President's Office (VPO) in collaboration with the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) drafted policies, bills, regulations and guidelines to manage e-waste in the country.
"However, the documents were yet to be approved since 2013, making the documents non-operational," reads part of audit report.
But, the report established that the preparation of e-waste working instruments was not participatory, and TCRA is being blamed for preparing the documents alone without involving other stakeholders.
"Lack of guidelines to manage e-waste increases health risks among people and the environmental," reads the CAG report.
An audit carried out in Mbeya, Tanga, Arusha, Mwanza city councils and Kinondoni, Ilala and Temeke municipal councils revealed no e-waste issue was addressed in the by-laws.
It was noted that LGAs didn't consider e-waste management activities a priority.
Regarding the funding of e-waste activities, the CAG audit found that Tanzania hasn't adopted the framework for funding developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and as such LGAs allocated no funds for such activities.
The National Environmental Management Council (Nemc) and LGAs also lack competent human resources for the managing of e-waste. Nemc was found to have five members of staff whose duty was to execute e-waste related jobs all over the country.
"However, out of the five, only two of them received formal training on e-waste and attended workshops organised by the TCRA and other stakeholders," reads the CAG report.
In addition, the audit found that LGAs had inadequate equipment and lacked protective gear for e-waste handlers.
The report says during the audit, 40 people were interviewed in Tanga City Council, where 28 had sub-standard protective gears; 12 others were not provided with safety gears during their first four months of work.
"Lack of protective gear for e-waste handlers exposed them to health hazards from e-waste," audit report says.
According to the audit report, six LGAs, including Mbeya, Tanga and Mwanza city councils as well as Kinondoni, Ilala and Temeke Municipal Councils had no designated e-waste dumping sites and that e-waste was mixed with other wastes.
It was also observed that even the general dumping sites had no fence and that safety signs were missing, increasing threats to people's health and the environment.
Regarding strategies of minimising or managing e-waste, the audit report found that the VPO and Nemc strategies were unrealistic.
The aeudit established that there were no formal systems of recording the amount of e-waste generated, collected and disposed in a specific period of time.
Nemc and LGAs did not conduct adequate awareness and capacity building among dealers, and that limited inspections on e-waste related activities was noted during the audit.
"The number of unregistered e-waste dealers was on the increase; Nemc, LGAs and other licensed companies had weak reporting; inadequate feedback and evaluation of e-waste management performances were noted," reads the audit report.
Following the above findings, the CAG concludes that despite continuous efforts to improve the state of the environment, the government has failed to effectively manage the state of e-waste in the country.
Despite entering into several international agreements on hazardous waste management, the government has no important instruments and strategies for managing e-waste to minimise its impacts on the environment and human health.
In addition, Nemc and LGAs entrusted to deal with e-waste, have no required capacity to effectively handle the ballooning problem of e-waste in the country.
"Nemc and LGAs have failed to effectively coordinate and share e-waste related information with other entities, as a result, the population is exposed to polluted environment," reads the audit report.
Specifically, the audit concludes that there was need for Nemc and LGAs to improve their e-waste management through increased allocations of funds, human resources capacity building and provision of equipment to e-waste handlers.
Furthermore, the audit concludes that there was need to improve record keeping in terms of the amount of e-waste generated, collected, transported, dismantled, recycled and disposed.
"The VPO and PO-RALG strategies, plans and targets towards e-waste management were not developed in order to minimise and manage e-waste activities in the country," reads part of the report.
The audit also concluded that there was no coordinated e-waste related issues among stakeholders and that there were inadequate monitoring and evaluation of such activities in the country.
Therefore, the CAG recommended that Nemc and LGAs should ensure that e-waste guiding tools, including policies, bills, regulation and guidelines, are approved and made available for stakeholders' use.
"The VPO and PO-RALG should ensure that Nemc and LGAs have specific, enough, and trained personnel to deal with e-waste issues and that database should be introduced for easy management of operations and tracking the amount of e-waste generated, collected and disposed in a particular time," reads audit report.
According to the audit, disposal centres and take back systems should be established, Nemc should be advised to lower costs of registration to attract more entrepreneurs who are willing to engage in the e-waste management business.
The VPO should also ensure that Nemc assessed the impact of e-waste to both human health and the environment, and share the information with other stakeholders, including members of the public.
It was also recommended that Nemc should establish and operate a central environmental information system for sharing information with stakeholders.
According to the CAG, the VPO and PO-RALG should ensure tools are developed for measuring the performance of Nemc and LGAs regarding minimisation and management of e-waste.
"Nemc should also update the inspection manual and consider including e-waste related issues in the manual and that LGAs should update their environmental by-laws in order to address e-waste management and minimisation activities," reads report.
Mr Siki Magoha, OK Plast Tanzania Limited assistant director, who specialises in e-waste, also expressed concerns over the state of affairs.
"Technologically, Tanzania is incapable of recycling batteries and mother bodies. These contain minerals like copper, silver, gold and sometimes hazardous gases," he said, adding.
"They are thus, packaged and transported to technologically developed countries. Tanzania's capacity is restricted to recycling parts with plastic in nature."
He said usually, Tanzania cooperated with German and Belgian firms during the transportation and dismantling of batteries and mother bodies to foreign countries.
"After packaging, the Vice President's Office (VPO's) is consulted for inspection to ensure that all safety precautions were been considered," he said.
According to him, the VPO inks some papers and issues transboundary forms that provide legal approval for transportation of the wastes to be made to designated countries.
Nemc acting director general Dr Vedast Makota said they havebeen making efforts to address the challenges noted in the CAG report.
"Stakeholders convened a meeting to deliberate the way forward following the CAG recommendations contained in the 2017/18 report," he said, declining to give detailed information.
When contacted to establish what the Vice President's Office (VPO) was doing to address the noted challenges, the Principal Secretary, Mr Joseph Malongo said the director of the environmental directorate was the one responsible to comment.
But, when the acting director of the environment directorate department, Ms Esther Makwaia was contacted, she declined to comment without prior permission of the permanent secretary, Mr Malongo.
The Minister of State in the Vice President's Office (VPO), Mr January Makamba and his deputy, Mr Kangi Lugola couldn't be immediately reached for comments.