(ERGO) – Beletweyne administration has issued an order that will see residents who dump garbage into the river Shabelle fined the equivalent of 500 dollars and jailed for six months. The administration said the garbage dumped into the river contributes to the repetitive flooding occurring in the city whenever it rains. Beletweyne is the largest urban centre in Somalia’s Hirshabelle state.
Radio Ergo’s local correspondent, Abdirisack Ahmed Hussein, asked the city’s deputy mayor, Abdi Hussein Osman, why they had taken such strong measures.
Abdi Hussein Osman: The residents of the city don’t take their garbage to the dumping site, instead they dump it into the river causing a lot of problems for everyone. The river used to have separate access points where the livestock went to drink, and where people dependent on the river could draw water. But this system is not there anymore. The access points are choked with garbage.
The garbage is also contributing to the floods experienced in this city. The water entering the river has sand in it, and the sand builds up after being blocked by the garbage, limiting the river’s water-holding capacity. This in turn easily causes flooding when it rains, and the river water level rises.
Radio Ergo: Do you have evidence that the garbage is partly the cause of the flooding, or is it a theory among the authorities?
Abdi Hussein Osman: We have seen this from experience. We never used to have these recurring floods in Beletweyne when the residents used to dump waste in the city’s dumping site. The central government used to protect the river from pollution, but now the residents are taking advantage of the leniency of the local administration. The problem we have is that the river surrounds the city and the residents are dumping the waste from all sides. We will assign specific soldiers to the task of policing it and arresting those who are caught dumping waste into the river so that they face the law.
Buundo Weeyn village is notorious for dumping garbage into the river. The local administration used to clean the river regularly but now we don’t have the funds to undertake that exercise as required.
Radio Ergo: As a local authority what have you done to protect the river from pollution?
Abdi Hussein Osman: We have conducted awareness campaigns in Beletweyne. Our mayor spent a day in Buundo Weeyn telling the residents about the dangers of using the river as a dump site. She also conducted awareness campaigns in the market telling business owners to stop dumping waste into the river. Most of the garbage dumped in the river comes from restaurants. We have warned them against it, but they are not cooperating.
Beletweyne has a private garbage collector that charges a small amount to dump the waste in the appropriate dumping site on the outskirts of the city, but the restaurants don’t want to pay that money. Instead, they are dumping into the river, which they depend on for water.
Radio Ergo: What do you think is the best solution to this issue?
Abdi Hussein Osman: The city produces a lot of garbage and we don’t have a governmental agency to oversee cleaning of the river and orderly behaviour of the residents. Everyone needs to be responsible to keep our roads and the river clean. For two weeks, my team and I have been working on cleaning up the tarmac road, which was full of rubbish, to prevent the garbage being swept into the river by rainwater now that we are in the rainy season.