EVERY now and then the residents of Honiara and other main urban centres in the country are reminded of how to manage and dispose waste from their homes, the discarding of rubbish in public places, from moving vehicles and on the streets.
Year after year numerous workshops and public displays on how to address waste management, rubbish disposal and the risks of inconsiderate discarding of toxic materials such as rubber, plastics, empty canisters of insect repellent and perfumes have been conducted by the responsible authorities, and sponsored billboards instructing the public on waste disposal are constant reminders on the main street of Honiara.
To top that of the Honiara residents as well as residents of other major urban centres are also so fortunate that they have designated authorities responsible to collect their rubbish for them and dispose it conveniently also at a readily prepared dumping location.
The bulk of rubbish composition in Honiara is from imported foodstuff and products but perhaps what seemed to be forgotten or rather overlooked here is the fact that these same items like canned food, drinks, clothing, plastic, rubber, empty canisters of chemicals, perfumes, insect repellent, and bottles that can be described as “town-waste” are increasingly becoming a concerned issue in rural areas littering the rural villages, streams, rivers and shoreline as more and more people have resorted to dependency on imported items from rural shops.
Early this year, during a Government Communications Unit officer’s tour of East Makira, it becomes obvious that the rural people have not foreseen the impending disaster and health risk from the accumulation of rubbish from used imported items in their villages.
Until recently, the consciousness of tapping their tourism potential prompted by the annual visits of cruise ships, community motivation and individual undertakings in eco-tourism has awakened the people of Gupuna village, Santa Ana Island to the bleak reality of inconsiderate dumping of rubbish in shallow waters off their shoreline and around the village.
Speaking during a general community clean-up campaign initiated by the local SSEC Shalom church, Chief Nicholas Karani and clean up coordinator Tex Kua expressed the concern that rural people have to be assisted to better understand and to manage the disposal of this new form of rubbish which is proving very difficult to decompose and to dispose safely.
“In the past most of the domestic waste or rubbish from our households comes from local food such as potato peels, coconuts, bananas, cabbage and other root crops that are conveniently used as compost, pig and chicken feed, but importantly the fact that they rot quickly diminishes the risk to health and problem of rubbish accumulation,” Chief Karani pointed out.
He added that with the increasing population this has put a constraint in local food supplement to the diet of people and they have resorted to imported foods such rice, biscuits, flour, tinned meat, and snacks brought from Honiara to the stores in the village.
“It was not noticeable at first but with the accumulation of this so called ‘new form of rubbish’ it has become an issue to which we have to be assisted by authorities in Honiara where these food items originate from before reaching us,” Mr Kua explained.
It is becoming common sight to discover empty containers of used engine oil, engine parts, refrigerators, rusty copper sheets, used batteries, and solar parts as well as iron materials lying around the village.
And this is a scenario that will continue to replay itself as a consequence of changing living styles and the increasing demands for consumer goods and imported items in the rural areas.
“I am overwhelmed by the support of everyone in my village who have responded to efforts to clean up the village especially the participation of the youth and children but it would be all the more worthwhile if such initiatives are accompanied by support and awareness from authorities responsible for waste management and preservation of environment,” chief Karani stressed.
Meanwhile, the Clean-Up Campaign Coordinators of Gupuna village, Santa Ana, have urged government authorities, donors and NGOs whose areas of work involved safe waste disposal and preservation of environment to be supportive with funds and running of awareness programmes in rural areas.
“If it is deemed important to clean up our towns where better social services and healthier environment already exists then it is even more important to reach out with information awareness and funds to assist our rural people acquire the same status in their own setting which is profoundly vulnerable compared to urban centres,” chief Karani pointed out.
He added that the enormity of the issue of waste or rubbish had not sunk in at first with the older people in the village but when the enthusiastic children and youth assembled at the village square with their heaps of rubbish ready for disposal at a temporary site – it then became obvious and appreciated by everyone that they had to do something about this issue.
“It would have been more appealing and fun if we had some form of sponsors of T/Shirts to be worn during our fortnightly clean-ups.
“I believe it would mean a lot to the young youth and children that they have served a purpose,” Mr Kua stressed and added that the important point is that authorities must not always concentrate in town and expect their messages to reach rural areas via radio or newspapers because to think likewise is a self-serving notion.
The issue of waste disposal of used imported products in Santa Ana is no different from experiences in most if not all rural communities in the country therefore it is an important issue that needs collaborative understanding by all responsible authorities and donor agencies who may have something to offer in the area of rural waste disposal management and conservation of environment.
By GEORGE M. SIAPU
Government Communication Unit