Dated February 01st, 2018 | Bakoteh
The Bakoteh dumpsite has been operating for more than three decades where refuse from the municipality is being dumped without any treatment, sorting or management. The dumpsite is located within a densely populated area surrounded by several communities including the SOS Children’s facility which houses a children’s village, mother and child clinic, lower, upper and senior secondary schools.
For decades the dumpsite has been releasing hazardous fumes into the communities of Bakoteh, Manjai Kunda, Dippa Kunda, London Corner, Sanchabe Sulay Jobe, Sukuta and beyond. Scores of residents, as children and adults have encountered respiratory tract infections. The dumpsite has also been a place where residents, children in particular are being exposed to unhealthy conditions because of scavenging as well as the bad odor that comes out of this place.
Even when the Gambia Government and the Kanifing \municipality as well as the National Environment Agency have all jointly and separately at certain times expressed intention to address the dumpsite in the interest of the communities mentioned above, yet there has been no improvement or solution to the issue. It is understood that over the years projects have been signed at both the level of the Gambia Government and Kanifing Municipal Council to address the dumpsite yet there has been no progress on those projects while dumping continues indiscriminately barely unabated.
The dumpsite therefore poses a direct threat to the right to lifer and the right to health of citizens who live around it. Both the Gambia Government and its environment agency, the NEA as well as Kanifing Municipal Council have a legal an political obligation to protect the right to life and the right to health of Gambian citizens that live around the dumpsite.
Scavenging for metal, plastics, Cable wires ‘’copper, and other recyclable items at bakoteh dump is a grim reality of life for many children in the surrounding communities. Most of the children at the dumpsites are vulnerable children prone to diseases and other fatal injuries . A few have access to education while many are challenged with a single instinct to survive by getting paid from a kilo of metal that barely gets them a decent meal. Most children work at the bakoteh dumpsite to supplement their parents’ meager earnings some parents bring their children along as a helping hand to raise pay . On a good day, a scarvenger typically earns about 50 cents to $1.50, usually the kids are a little more patient and spend a lot of time breaking the old TVs on the dump looking for any electronic device to strip any copper wires in them exposing themselves to radioactive elements.
There are many people mostly underprivileged and marginalized scavenging at dumpsites throughout The Gambia. This is a sad reflection of the severe financial and social conditions in least developed countries.
How the Project Started:
In march 2017 a protest was staged by residents of Bakoteh and Majai forcefully shutting down the biggest landfill in the Gambia.
The groups say The Gambia's landfills are an environmental disaster and were left completely unregulated under the previous government. But the Kanifing Municipal Council had long delayed to act and this created huge piles of rubbish all over the municipality and waste was later collected by locals and dumped in front of the mayor’s office in protest for the negligence of the council for failing to exercise control dumping mechanism and avoiding indiscriminate burning of waste.
The National Environment Agency’s mandate is to ensure an environmentally sustainable economic and social development in The Gambia, under the NEMA, 1994, is empowered to take direct implementation action in matters dealing with environmental especially in establishing environmental quality and monitoring standards, In the area of environmental quality exclusively taking into account pollution control.
Green-Up Gambia intervention to help address this problem by being a catalyst for social justice and create a headway to foster meaningful development through engaging authorities and the communities in the management of the dumpsite and putting strategies agreed upon by the authorities.
Engaging in site visit’s consultative meetings and fact finding observations in order to address challenges faced at the site to provide a clean and healthy environment, for the people of the municipality particularly the surrounding environment both in the long term and short term equations.
The following problems have been identified. Unfortunately, the problem is bigger than just the sight of huge piles of waste. There are many health and environmental issues that are presented at Bakoteh dumpsite.
Infrastructure disruption, such as damage to access roads by heavy vehicles,
Pollution of water courses and ground water contamination
Air pollution due to thick smoke from burning of other radioactive waste.
Uncontrolled human resource and exposed workers (Scavengers/Security)
Breached areas of the fence and Dumpsite used as passage
The following action are key and must be prioritized by the KMC to avoid serious sanitation crisis.
A stationed bulldozer on site for a period of 90 days to be regularly pushing the waste and covering it.
Rehabilitation of the site; fix the breach areas of the fence and excavate the access roads as part of the roads become water logged and thus inaccessible causing rubbished to be dumped indiscriminately.
Restrict the dumping area from children and minors and establish a system of monitoring the activities of scavengers and improve security routines.
When the project was initiated, Green-Up first surveyed the people at the dumpsite to gain an understanding of their backgrounds and their needs. Collaborated with governmental offices at the local and national levels and together worked to address this complex, multi-faceted problem.
Green-Up Gambia has continued to work collaboratively with the Kanifing Municipal council and the Ministry of environment . The goal of our Dumpsite Project is to
draw children away from the dumpsite and enroll them in schools
help and train wokers to practice safe recycling methods and ensuring safe and standards measures for landfill workers
Mitigate fire outbreaks causing serious pollution of the neighborhood which houses the SOS children’s village, schools, hospitals.
Green-Up does this by –
Work with 6 volunteers and the 4 KMC guards on site to put an end to the smoke.
By putting the following control measures in place:
- To have a log book and ID cards for all scavenging activities on the site. Scavengers rely on this work to survive but should be monitored and given advice and support.
- Closure of dumpsite to pedestrians and children loitering there.
- Ensure that dumping only takes place in the land fill which will help the scavengers to carry on their recycling activities without setting fires. (Availability of a control system with log book data record will give a clear record of who is on the site at a particular time this will help stop the fires).
- Supervise the daily activities happening in the dumpsite and send monthly updates to all parties.
- Work with Bakoteh and Manjai community in the areas of sensitization with our module of innovative volunteerism to curb waste.
- Recruitment and equipping of the youths to engage in the sensitization of the community and operators in the separation of waste generated and providing security and management of the dump site
- Closure of dumpsite to pedestrians and children loitering there or using as a quick passage by residents by fixing the Gate and breached areas of the fence.
- Provide fuel for the Fire and Rescue service in case of any emergency .
On an ongoing basis, Green-Up Gambia provides enrichment activities, such as awareness sessions, Tree Planting around the dumpsite and other activities
There is no governmental funding available for any of Green-Up’s Activities . Currently, the Dumpsite Project operates on Green-Up fairly unsustainable resources from donations and contributions from members.
Trash For Cash bins & Awareness creation on waste segregation
The changes that need to happen to prevent the children scavenging on site from being the next generation in the cycle of poverty. They deserve better living conditions and some degree of control families must be strengthened to avoid child labor as some of them are brought by parents to help on site. Strategies that need to be put in place before permanent holistic solutions are put in place .
It is crucial to educate people to generate less waste, for this reason, we propose a contribution under the form of a fee ‘’polluter’s pay principle’’ in order to fund the management of the waste on site. Establish strategies for waste segregation at house to house level or at communal dumpsites/ waste collection points. This practice will ameliorate air quality and improve the environmental and health condition of residents as there will be no burning of waste once segregation sets in. As there is a land fill which has no access roads to dump inside and no excavators and bull dozers on site to regularly dress the waste this exacerbates the indiscriminate dumping and compartmentalized dumping is feasible as Project Lighthouse calculated the landfill volume after a period of 15 years to 2,000,000 m3, based on the assumption that the average waste rate was 350 m3/day and that the waste was not compacted (Project Lighthouse, 2015). So making access roads will bring about safe waste disposal methods. Scavengers should collaborate with site management and or collection vehicles ‘donkey cart’ and allocate specific compartments for collection of plastic, metal or other valuable products they collect in the dumpsite. This solution will bring scavengers away of that unhealthy environment and also bring about a transformational change in waste handling in the Gambia.