One of the major drawbacks for local governments today is their limited technical and financial capacity to manage the growing volume of garbage generated daily.
The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) projects that an average of 1,500 tonnes of garbage is produced daily in urban centres today compared to about eight tonnes produced 20 years ago.
Section 26 (Part 3 of the Second Schedule) of the Local Governments Act bestows the function of garbage management on urban councils. Chapter 1.3 (Under Roles & Responsibilities) of the Garbage Management Guideline for a Clean, Safe Attractive Urban Environment in Uganda July 2010 enjoins urban councils to develop garbage management strategies and plans.
Sadly, urban authorities have not performed this function efficiently and effectively.
On average, urban councils collect between 10 to 20 per cent of their garbage volume which is attributed in part to the absence of waste management plans.
The Auditor General’s report to Parliament for the financial year which ended June 2020 revealed that only 38 per cent of the 41 municipal councils had developed waste management strategies to guide the implementation of solid waste management.
This is further expounded by the fact that some urban councils have no data and records of garbage volume generated daily.
In addition to absence of waste management plans, there is also the dilemma of dwindling local revenue for local governments which should otherwise fund garbage collection.
In Financial Year 2018/2019, local governments collected only 76 per cent of their projected local revenues, according to reports from the Auditor General.
As a result of limited local revenue, waste management is relegated to the footnote within the public health docket and allotted a very minimal budget. Cases of unpaid garbage collectors, grounded garbage trucks, faulty garbage skips are common occurrence in local governments; a testament of their financial incapacitation.
Furthermore, urban local governments have consequently failed to effectively meet their statutory obligations of remitting 25 per cent revenue to village councils, part of which should fund garbage collection at the village level.
Urban authorities can borrow a leaf from other cities around the world that have overcome the waste management monster.
Fortaleza City in Brazil is an appropriate case study in waste management. To reduce emissions from waste, Fortaleza developed a Municipal Integrated Waste Management Plan and invests more than $300,000 (about Shs1b) in recycling annually. The plan lays down strategies to capture and refine methane from its landfill to use as energy, which curbs its reliance on natural gas.
Locally, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) has contracted private companies to manage solid waste collection to improve the cleanliness of the city which disposes of 40 per cent to 50 per cent of its garbage.
This appears very minimal, but it is because 80 per cent of this garbage is organic matter which makes it very bulky to handle.
Since local governments are constrained financially, privatising waste management will help improve their energy efficiency and become more sustainable in the long term.
This process should start with development of a waste management plan to set long-term targets for recycling and composting of the garbage.
This plan must clarify the role of private sector in waste management and lay down strategies for a public private partnership.
A 2005 World Bank report on waste management in China recognised private sector involvement in waste management as being critical in managing the growing rate of garbage production.
Mr Walter Akena is a project officer, Local Government Council Scorecard Initiative at ACODE