Sanaa: “MY [Archives:1997/51/Culture]

December 22 1997

Everybody knows that Sana’a is located at 2000 meters above sea level. Did anybody ever try to find out how this area has come? The answer might be in garbage. Each person within the city produces about 0.5 kg of garbage per day. This means that a family easily produces over one ton of solid waste per year. For the whole city it means approximately 500 tons of solid waste per day. At the Faculty of Engineering of Sana’a University a post-graduate short course Solid Waste Management was held with experts from Yemen, The Netherlands and Germany. Within its masters program the course aimed to transfer to and share with participants from all over Yemen basic knowledge on related matters. During this course, calculations showed that at present just 25 – 30% of the solid waste generated in Sana’a is actually collected and (hopefully) received at the landfill along Amran road. It also means that the remaining waste just raises the altitude of Sana’a. Each year Sana’a may rise approximately one cm due to the accumulation solid waste within the city. Of course this is not fully realistic, but it shows that still a lot needs to be done to improve the living environment of its one million inhabitants. The dignity of Yemeni life is at risk; people living within solid waste do gradually get used to it, and may forget to take up hygiene as a high moral and religious life style.
The recent privatization of the solid waste collection services, transferring the duties of collection and disposal to contractors, needs to be monitored with a great care by the municipal authorities. They have to bear their responsibility very seriously to prevent the failure of the present set-up which would endanger public health. Examples from abroad show that this is not always a sustainable solution as garbage vehicles are not always duly replaced due to lack of financial discipline and responsibility on part of the contractors. If the presently running compactor trucks are not duly replaced, the collection efficiency may rapidly drop further to values below the present 25%.
Last but not least the participants of the course expressed the need for awareness-raising campaigns to mobilize community support for municipal solid waste collection. If the people of Sana’a do cooperate by disposing their wastes properly into the street containers, it might be of great help to raise the efficiency of solid waste collection and disposal within Sana’a and thus contribute to a healthy and cleaner environment. This might raise the standards of living for all of us with time. Public awareness however, can only be raised if also the government takes its responsibility to guarantee that, with or without contractors, a good and regular service is provided to the public.
Mohammed Al-Hamdi & Siemen Veenstra Sana’a University, Faculty of Engineering