This, indeed, is a worrisome spectacle. Local experts in waste management told a meeting in Dar es Salaam at the weekend that an incisive environmental cleanliness policy and concerted action against poor hygiene are needed in a quest to reverse the situation.
It is waste accumulation that often leads to an explosion of communal diseases that are linked to poor hygiene. Temeke District, for example, which has about 1.5 million residents, generates 1,138 tonnes of waste but only 50 per cent of it is collected and destroyed. The rest becomes a health threat to communities and keeps accumulating.
The reason is easy to see - district councils do not have capacity to cope with the tide. People’s attitude towards waste disposal is another headache for authorities. Rubbish, including the now worrisome plastic bags, is discarded anywhere without a care in the word. And there are dare-devils who relieve themselves on street sides and secluded corners.
The city of Dar es Salaam and other urban centres have numerous smelly spots. The problem of slum congestion is equally critical. While more than 70 per cent of our urban centres remain unplanned, some of the officially surveyed locations are heavily congested by small dwellings on tiny plots of land.
Of course, town planners now prefer to parcel out medium and low density plots but this highly agreeable undertaking has come rather belatedly. Most of the planned areas in Dar es Salaam, for example, already have small houses that touch each other. The result is heavy congestion in a country that has plenty of land.
Overcrowding is even worse in localities where land developers build dwelling houses or other landed property on unplanned land. Here, the sanitation problem is critical. Diseases associated with unsanitary conditions prevail in these congested places where squatters, mainly the poor, live in filthy conditions with no clean piped water.
Here swarms of houseflies roam at will spreading diseases. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens hundreds of children every day and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more in this country.