Amechi Akora is the Managing Director of the Anambra State Waste Management Authority, ASWAMA. In this exclusive interview with O’star Eze, he shares his thoughts on issues bordering on the attitude of citizens towards waste management, among other issues.
What have been the reasons behind late disposal of refuse in Anambra?
The basic challenge is the way our layout is planned. Our layout is planned in such a way that hinders our vehicles, in most cases, from penetrating the neighbourhood. This means that our personnel have to wait for the people to bring out their wastes to the central collection points. It also means that a great number of people will be using one refuse or litter point. And so, you empty the refuse bin and go, and in a short while, the bin gets filled up again. You pick the refuse in the morning or in the afternoon and before the following day, the bins are filled up again. Because their terrains are not easily accessible, the bins keep piling up.
The second one is the attitude of the people towards waste management. Waste is better managed in the home. The best approach towards waste management is that waste is better managed closer to the source of its generation; in your kitchen, or your sitting room. Before it leaves your compound, you manage your waste by separating them, so that those ones that could be recycled are put in separate pack and those ones that are pure domestic wastes, which are biodegradable, are put in another pack. But people do not do this. They pack everything together.
Another poor attitude they have towards waste management is that they do not put wastes in thrash bag. The right attitude would be to put the waste in thrash bag and tie it securely so that the wastes do not spill. What our people do is that they drop it anyhow and anywhere. These factors are our challenges.
There was a time we had challenges of bins. Our refuse bins were rickety. Some of them were rotten, but you can see that in the past two months, government has given a fresh supply of new bins, and so, we are distributing these new bins to locations where we used to have the old and rickety ones. However, because the capital city is growing, there are people still coming in from Isuanaocha, Amanuke, Mgbakwu with their thrash into Awka. So, it means that the provision for Awka alone is over flowing, because of the influx of waste from outside the Awka capital territory.
Again, of course, the cost of maintaining the equipment is another challenge. Most of our equipments are from Innoson Motors and some of them do not have spare parts. And so, we are trying to see how we can get other brands as substitutes.
How often do you remove waste materials?
There are places we remove wastes constantly. For instance, in planned Estates like Ngozika, we remove wastes every day. The same thing applies to Udoka, Rockland and to Ahocol Estates. In most of the organized places, we have that regular routine. In some other non-organised places like Ifite Road, we still alternate. So, we have routines. Unlike what it used to be in the past, we touch every part of Awka. Sometimes, however, we do have some hiccups; like when we have major vehicle break down and we are not able to repair our vehicles to dispose refuse dumps as regularly as we should.
Do you generate revenue as an agency?
The law that establishes ASWAMA gives it the authority to generate revenue, not just for ASWAMA as an agency, but for the state government. ASWAMA has two basic functions; one is to manage waste, the other is to derive revenue accruing from waste management.
How does this agency intend tackling indiscriminate disposal of refuse in gutters within the state?
Sanctioning erring citizens is an aspect of the law establishing our agency. It is stipulated in ASWAMA Law of 2015. Offences such as doing anything that would constitute blockage of the drainage systems are punishable. When you visit different parts of the capital city, you see people throwing tied nylon bags with contents right inside drainage channels. We sanction such people when we get them, and sometimes, take them to court.
What do you have to say about people burning waste materials indiscriminately?
We have gone on air appealing to people and reminding them that bush burning is an offense under the law. They should not engage in it. We have been able to catch some persons engaging in indiscriminate burning of wastes. We took them to Police Station and from there, they were charged to court and the court fined them. So, we are not taking it lightly. But the problem is that our people like to be pushed. They have not adopted the right responses to situations.
How could citizens help your Agency in checking indiscriminate burning of refuse?
We urge citizens to report such person to ASWAMA; because, even the smoke that comes from the burning pollutes the atmosphere and affects the health of people within the vicinity. If you find any person burning wastes indiscriminately, tell the person to stop doing so. If he insists, come to ASWAMA because we have laws to prosecute such a person.
What’s your message to the citizens as regards waste disposal in Anambra, especially within the capital city?
My final charge to our people is for them to imbibe the right attitude towards waste management and disposal. Make sure you separate your waste right in your kitchen. Put them in thrash bags and tie them. Take them from your homes to litter points and deposit them in the spaces meant for them and not on the streets.