Clearing drainage needs concerted effort – City of Harare

MANY storm water drains in Harare are partly or fully blocked with rubbish and many surface drains in the suburbs are silted or have been landscaped and filled by those seeking to extend their gardens to the road. So, each time there is a storm we face floods.In Harare city centre, there are damaged or vandalised covers to catch-pits, those entrances to the underground drains, and these have to be repaired.

But the major problem is that most catch-pits are filled with garbage, as are some near surface drains under pavements and kerbs that were designed to take water to a catch-pit.

Teams of municipal workers have been going round clearing these, and anyone passing and having a look will see them removing vast quantities of rubbish coated in stinking black gunge. Half-litre plastic bottles tend to dominate the piles of the removed rubbish, but there are a lot of 330mm drinks cans and remnants of polystyrene boxes that once held take-away meals. Workers will tell you that a cleared catch-pit will usually be filled again within a few days, especially when it rains more frequently and garbage thrown in the gutters is washed into the catch-pits before street sweepers can collect it.

The growing problem of rubbish, especially rubbish that will not break up or break down, is our fault. Too many people refuse to walk a single step with an empty bottle or can and think they have some special permission to discard a take-away container as soon as they have eaten their meal. And this is despite a well-planned programme involving the council and many businesses to erect sponsored bins in the city centre and suburban shopping centres.

In many suburbs storm water drains are on the surface, running along the verges of the road.

Many are silted, especially the culverts under driveways, and some seem to have been deliberately filled in by householders wanting to landscape their verges, forgetting that storm-water has to go somewhere and that if a drain is filled with earth the storm-water will flow down someone’s drive or form a shallow lake at the foot of a hill.

Garbage adds to the problems. Passing pedestrians and drivers seem to think nothing of throwing bottles, cans and take-away containers onto verges, with the problem being most acute along the major highways, as many proud homeowners who sweep this mess up will testify.

The engineers who designed Harare’s storm water drains built in plenty of space capacity, and largely designed the system to be self-cleaning, the force of the flow quite able to cope with leaves, banana skins, apple cores, raised dust and the odd paper bag.

But when the catch pits are filled with plastic bottles the flow is reduced and all this normal litter is trapped, and in the end will silt up the catch-pit; that black gunge coating the empty bottles is the result of trapped ordinary litter.

So what can we do?

One solution is a significant increase in rates so that the Harare City Council can employ a lot more people to clean up after the rest of us. Few would vote for that.

So we are back to us, as individuals. If people would stop throwing litter into the street, into gutters and into catch-pits the drains would not be blocked. There are by-laws criminalising littering, although they are obviously not applied. But it is possible to create a culture where people do not throw litter away in public, as any visitor to Namibia will have noted, and steep fines consistently applied will force that culture change, as Singapore has shown.

Other solutions are available. One would be to impose a small surcharge on plastic bottles and drinks cans, say 5c, and have collection points where anyone could claim this back. What is likely to happen is what happens in Japan where some people earn a modest living picking up these and taking them by the sack to the redemption point.

The recycle value of the raw materials would pay for the extra costs.

Extracted from The Herald Newspaper

Source: The City of Harare Facebook Page

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