Tony Wafula

Located in Kenya’s fertile Western region and at the foot of Mount Elgon, Bungoma County is a dream home area for many people- except the area residents who are contemplating relocating to other areas.

Residents living near the county dumpsite are appealing to the relevant authorities to move them to other areas due to the bad smell emanating from the dumpsite.

Paul Wanjala, a resident, accuses the County government of giving a deaf ear to their grievances. The dumpsite was started in 2016 by then County Governor Ken Lusaka but was left open without a parameter wall allowing young children and animals access the site, which exposes them to different health hazards.

“It wasn’t easy to push these people to erect this wall here; after starting the process of erecting the parameter wall, they disappeared without completing it,” he says.

The view of the Bungoma dumpsite. Photo by Tony Wafula

He explains that the bad smell from the rotting garbage has made his family uncomfortable, especially during the windy season. “The bad smell that emanates from the rotting garbage has made some of us lose appetite,” he narrates, adding that cooking foodstuffs like meat and fish are a major challenge because flies are all over the area.

In addition, Wanjala notes that the area is grappling with an upsurge in malaria cases-something he attributes to the stagnant water at the dump site.

“The people operating this facility are careless. They don’t even care that we reside here, provided they dispose of the garbage and go,” he notes, adding that the county government should identify a way of separating the garbage and recycling some.

Wanjala now wants the county government to move them to other areas or else they take action.

Hebert Kibunguch, the Bungoma County Executive Committee (CEC) member for water, environment, tourism, and natural resources, says that he is aware of the dumpsite’s bad state, affirming the county government has plans to establish two more dumpsites in the County.

“Currently, we have only one dumpsite in Bungoma, but in the near future, we intend to set up two more in Webuye and Kimilili so that it can be easier to control,” he says.

Kibunguch said that currently, it is only Bungoma town that has functional septic sewer systems, but unfortunately, it is not working effectively.

He also adds that the county government has had conversations with the Africa development bank, which has promised to support Bungoma to improve the sewer systems in towns.

County Government Vows to Tackle the Garbage Challenge

In what appears to be a blame shift, Kibunguch says that it is the work of the contractor at the dumpsite to spray the site to stop the bad smell.

“I have always requested the contractor who was given the tender of garbage collection to spray the site to stop the unpleasant smell that emanates from dirt,” he explains, but also adds that there are plans to start recycling garbage like plastic bottles and glasses.

“To address some of the challenges raised by our people near the dumpsite, we have plans to recycle garbage to manufacture fertilizer that will be returned into the economy,” he observes.

He notes that the County government, through the municipal council officers, will place garbage bins on all markets and sensitize the public to separate dirt at the source.

“To avoid separating at the dump site, we have plans of sensitizing the public on how to separate dirt at the source,” he says, adding that they have included a budget in the 2023/24 financial year to help in the piloting of the exercise in Bungoma.

The view of the Bungoma dumpsite. Photo by Tony Wafula

Vincent Mahiva, the County Director for  Bugoma County National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), decries the poor state of the Bungoma dumpsite, adding that this is an issue of concern that calls for collaboration and action from all stakeholders to avert the likely associated health dangers.

However, Mahiva said that the county government should provide proper places where the waste can be separated and returned to the economy as raw materials.

He added that in the future, the country is looking towards a circular economy where every waste will go back to the economy, adding that some industries in Bungoma have already started using waste to produce electricity – giving an example of the Naitiri sugar industry that uses sugar cane waste to generate power.

NEMA Amplifies Call on Plastic Ban

Mahiva also wants the public to desist from the use of plastic bags to wrap foodstuffs, saying that it has side effects on the health of human beings, adding that Bungoma has achieved over 85 percent success in reducing the use of plastics.

In addition, Mahiva said that the world has recognized Kenya for its efforts in implementing a ban on the use of plastics, and this has been largely due to the involvement of all stakeholders.

On more efforts to conserve the environment, Mahiva says that to achieve the call by President William Ruto of planting 15 billion trees, NEMA and partners plan to plant trees in Bungoma learning institutions and other public places, including Mt. Elgon slopes – where deforestation has contributed to the drying of streams, rivers, and wells.

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