Driving on the highway leading into Gambia’s commercial capital, Serrekunda, you will not miss the heaps of garbage that dot the sides of the road.
Gambians had on Saturday took part in what is locally called ‘setsetal,’ a day long cleansing exercise in which all citizens participate to keep the nation healthy.
It was made forceful by the ex-autocratic ruler, Yahya Jammeh and the people have frowned upon a part of the rules, which infringes the right to free movement, still being in place.
Vehicles are not allowed to ply the roads and businesses are forced to close but days after the ‘setsetal,’ the uncollected trash poses health threats to the people.
At the Serrekunda main market, worms and flies have made comfortable homes in the garbage. Petty traders in their stalls with their customers are seen at war with them as they wasp them away.
The National Environment Agency and the Kanifing Municipality Council have not been out collecting the garbage days after the so-called national cleaning day.
Bakary Badjie is an aspiring mayor of the Kanifing Municipality and he decried the failure on the part of authorities to regularly collect garbage.
“An environmental tax is collected from the citizens. So if they Council and the National Environment Agency have been doing their job, we will not be here in the first place and the people will not be made to do national cleaning days,” said Badjie.
“It is the responsibility of the Council to ensure they do not fail to pick up trash regularly like they do not fail to collect tax regularly from the people and end this health crisis.”
Mr. Badjie says the Kanifing Municipal Council should take a leadership position that would invest in cleaner technologies so that air pollution from waste becomes a thing of the past.
The Kanifing Municipality is seen as ineffective for failing to execute its duties sparking protests that have forced current Mayor Yankuba Colley not to seek re-election.
In Bakoteh and Manjai, the reopening of a landfill has ignited anger and dissent. Environmental activists say the smoke from the burning of the trash and the odor from the garbage has become unbearable for residents.
Several people have died around the Bakoteh dumpsite and families are blaming conditions at the landfill for the ‘mysterious’ deaths in their community.
Many residents of the Kanifing Municipality are wondering what the use of having a cleansing exercise only for the trash to be left on curbsides to be washed on to the streets by the rains.
Gambia’s drainage system is poor if not one of the worst in Africa. Streets and highways are flooded after the rains and floating in the running water are trash left uncollected.
The KM is heading to the polls in April to vote for a new mayor and new councilors. The waste management crisis will take center stage in the campaigns that will be the fiercest in the post-Jammeh era.