Honiara was once dubbed “one of the Pacific’s cleanest and beautiful towns”.
A perfect snapshot to the country’s gateway that wraps together the tiny islands making up that enjoyed ‘hapi isles’.
This comes with recognition from its government, relevant authorities and of course its very own citizens showing this off.
But fast forward to the 21st century; that once beautiful image had disappeared into the sky.
As development gained momentum and the population increases, the issue of waste, which is a major contributing factor to the city losing that status, became obvious.
Whilst we appreciate developments to enhance better standard of living, managing population growth is yet another problem; this becomes complicated with its many related issues, one of which is solid waste.
The positive notions to these are significant so as the negativities.
As rightly pointed by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, Disaster Management and Meteorology Permanent Secretary, Dr Melchior Mataki:
“As population increases, usage of more products will only mean more wastes to manage; and yet this has been neglected or ignored by most:
“Solid waste management is not valued at all.”
Apparently, this issue of solid waste management is not a new thing to the scholars. However, the underlying factor is us – the people.
Dr Mataki studied and done some research into solid waste management in Honiara for his doctoral thesis.
“People enjoy making use of whatever products but the end product that has become waste is no longer important and nobody cares, this attitude needs change,” he said.
“No matter whatever infrastructures or how much money we put into whatever modern technology or system of solid waste management; it will not eradicate or control it.
“The behavior, mindset and attitude of people needs improvement too, it needs change.
“This is a challenge to the people, because 95 percent of solid waste management is the people’s issue; only 5 percent of it is with the policy makers.
“Isn’t this so true to the once cleanest and beautiful city?”
According to a Asia Development Bank (ADB) report, the total solid waste generation rate, household and non-household, for Solomon Islands is estimated to be 0.75–1.0 kilogram (kg) per person per day.
With a population of around 80,000 and a waste generation rate of 1.0 kg/ person/day, the Honiara urban area is estimated to generate 80 tonnes per day or 29,000 tons per year.
Of all these, 40 to 50 percent of these are estimated to be organic waste.
It noted also that if the urban population continues growing at its current rate, solid waste generation is expected to double within 18 years.
Imagine this for those years ahead, Honiara becoming another dirty city, is that what we want of people coming into the country commenting?
Definitely a big no!
It’s our responsibility, while the city council is playing its part, so as the citizens to play their role.
The report stated the current waste collection in Honiara is not done regularly which most times results in burning of rubbish becoming that usual practice.
“Some people living in settlements near the boundary with Honiara city transport rubbish to small roll-on-roll-off bins that HCC places in several outlying areas.
“Many residences, government offices, businesses, vacant lots, and street corners in Honiara have an active garbage pile; and virtually every pile is burned regularly.”
It noted that since only a small proportion of solid waste is collected, much of the Honiara urban area’s waste is improperly disposed of through open burning and illegal dumping.
“This has serious public health and environmental consequences. For example, poor solid management practices were linked to a severe outbreak of dengue fever in Honiara in 2013.”
Whilst this problem persisted and is increasingly growing with careless attitude, it needs reconsideration for sure – setting to the mind-set of people’s behaviour.
Attempts in past have been put on trial including that of the litter bylaw ordinance of the Honiara City Council.
But is this doing enough to help manage this growing issue? How best to the government, Honiara City Council, relevant authorities and the people would like to retitle the gateway?
There is significant scope for improving Solid Waste Management in Honiara to address current public health risks and environmental improvements, sustaining it is yet another issue.
“There is a need to address high rates of illegal dumping and burning of rubbish by expanding service coverage to all of Honiara City’s population, which would result in the collection of volumes up to four times more than at present,” noted the ADB report.
It states that there are options for expanding coverage to peri-urban areas in Guadalcanal Provinces that should also be assessed, given rapidly increasing settlement populations which are currently not provided with service.
Improved collection would put pressure on waste disposal systems at Ranadi dumpsite.
“While upgrading measures will extend the life of the existing dumpsite, with rising urban population, there is a need to assess longer-term options for waste disposal in Honiara.
“An alternative to the Ranadi site has not been found—due partly to widespread land ownership issues it is facing challenges of settling land disputes.”
It added that waste minimization, increased composting of organic waste, and better recycling systems, will be essential in reducing the volume of wastes that enter the landfill.
Whilst we acknowledge the fact that funding may be inadequate, the action of pointing figures to authorities should not be entertained.
Because while pointing out one figure, the other four are pointing back at us.
Thus, Mataki’s statement was nothing but the truth that it’s the people that need immediate change.
This might not be achieved overnight but we have to try and put out that rural attitude of eat and throw like we use to do in our villages with decomposable or easily rot organic foods.
And of course the lack of funding for adequate management of solid wastes in Honiara remains an issue, especially given the high number of informal settlers who do not pay council rates, and low collections among ratepayers.
Not only these but the need to revise and update city, provincial, and national regulations relating to waste management to clarify responsibilities, and strengthen monitoring and enforcement so be a priority.
This activity should be integrated with stakeholder consultations to develop broad support for d awareness of the revised regulations.
A reflection to that issue of waste management, whether it be solid, organic or liquid: it’s everyone’s business.
Most of us care much of the product we use but afterwards, it’s no longer our responsibility; with that thinking in mind it’s someone else’s responsibility.
This needs to change.
For are talking about Honiara here; our gateway, our identity, our capital city so show the world we are responsible.
By BRADFORD THEONOMI