“It can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to decompose in landfills. The plastic bags used daily take 10 years to 1,000 years to decompose, while plastic bottles can take 450 years or more.”
Looking at a pile of plastic garbage on the river bank with an environmentally sensitive lens; tickles one’s minds in relation to attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Kazi-njema News reporter has witnessed numerous and countless plastic bottles and bags respectively suffocating Bigajuka Stream just some few metres away north east of Hoima City headquarters.
The stream at risk pours its water into River Wambabya whose lower course is relied on for power generation at Kabalega Power Project before descending and emptying into Lake Albert. The upper course is the source of water used all over the city for now.
A similar situation is on Rwenkondwa stream whose mouth is also the Wambabya River.
City dwellers have blamed the authorities for failing to manage garbage.
According to Ms Specioza Katusiime, a resident of Rusaka Middle in Hoima city, garbage collecting trucks take long to collect garbage in the residential areas hence forcing people to look for methods of ridding their court yards of garbage.
“We do not have the capacity to carry the garbage to Boma Sports grounds where the recycle bin is, about 500 metres away. Nobody would wish to dump this garbage near the stream. Some of us understand the danger associated with it,” she says.
Mr Moses Semahunge, the Manager Bulindi Chimpanzee and Conservation Project, warns that degradation of wetlands can exacerbate the problem of floods currently plaguing Lake Albert dwellers, other lowlands in Uganda and elsewhere in the world.
He asks the relevant authorities to take the issue of plastic disposal seriously and as early as possible to save the environment which is already starved with settlers and farmers.
In an interview with Kazi-njema News, Mr Ronald Kyamanywa, the Hoima City Council Environment Officer, blames community members for failing to separate plastics from biodegradable waste and dump it at designated sites.
On the other hand, he faults garbage collectors for gaps in plastic collection and dumping at Kibati waste plant where plastics are sorted from other solid waste used to manufacture manure.
However, he is optimistic that the Strategic Pan laid by the city will help to control irresponsible disposal of garbage.
Mr Jimex Businge, the Hoima City Deputy Mayor, acknowledges there are challenges in garbage collection instigated by failure of some community members to cooperate with the city authorities and also insufficient trucks to collect garbage all over the city daily.
However, he says with the city status attained this financial year, plastic waste management will be prioritised.
Mechanical breakdowns of the only two garbage collection trucks, has been noticed as a challenge.
Plastic burning done by some city dwellers too is discouraged on scientific grounds that it emits toxic gases to human health.
The problem of plastic garbage is not restricted to Hoima City. It is spread to urban centres across the country.
Uganda has since 2009 failed to take action on banning the importation and manufacture of single use plastic carrier bags.
The ban passed by parliament has always been frustrated by the economic value of the business that seems to supersede conservation in view of most influential government officials.
Dr Tom Okurut, the Executive Director of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) had this unrealised dream since 2016 when a new drive was made to eliminate plastic bags in Uganda.
Mr Vincent Nyegenya, the Executive Director for Network of Sound Management of Chemicals-Kitara (NESMAC-Kitara), identifies the need for government to establish incinerators in major urban centres to safely terminate plastics or invest in plastic waste recycling industry if they have completely failed to implement the ban.
The risk of plastic waste disposal in wetlands is expected to grow along with the population due to oil production related activities in the Albertine region since Hoima is the regional capital for the area with commercially viable crude quantities confirmed so far.
According to the National Population census of 2014, results by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), Hoima city had a population of 100,625 people growing at a rate of 10.7% compared to 3.7% by 2002.
It was second to Wakiso town with 11.9% in the country.
According to city statistics, solid waste generation rate was 150 to 200 tonnes per day in 2016.
Plastic waste constituted 26.8% of the total waste generated at household level.
Textiles contributed 7.8%, 5.0%, metal and electronics portioned to 1.7% and 0.2% respectively.
According to information from the internet, it can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to decompose in landfills. The plastic bags used daily take 10 years to 1,000 years to decompose, while plastic bottles can take 450 years or more.
They affect soil fertility and life for many living organisms in the soil and waters.