Recently, Kenya’s environmental watchdog – National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) – embarked on a campaign aimed at curbing waste menace emanating from the public transport industry known locally as matatu industry.
NEMA’s move though noble and coming just at the right time, it is my considered opinion that it will achieve very little if the citizens are not educated on the essence of being eco-conscious.
With or without dustbins our matatus can still be clean only if we the wananchi became aware of the negativities of littering our surrounding. Imagine a situation where every person stopped to think of the would be impact(s) of their every little action before committing such acts.
To bring my point home, I wish to share a brief personal story about my experience with our public transport industry.
Sometime back I set out to go to Kisumu travelling in one of the main coaches (that I would not mention here) plying the Nairobi-Kisumu route. These specific coaches are considerably environment friendly relative to most of the other players in the industry and “Kenyan standards”; that’s why I do prefer them. Among other measures, they have a dustbin strategically placed next to the passengers’ entrance/exit door.
In the course of the journey somewhere around Naivasha area, a fellow traveler (a man probably in his late 30s or early 40s) seated close to the window about two seats ahead of me stood up from his seat and was trying to open the window so that…and hear this…he could throw a packet of yoghurt (which I assumed he had just finished drinking) outside.
Before he could do it I called out for him. I said “Hey! please don’t throw it out through the window. There’s a dustbin there in front where you need to dump it or better still give it to me I will take it for you.”
I expected the guy to be challenged in a positive way, but I was wrong. Instead of taking it to the dustbin or giving it to me like I had suggested, he in protest opened the window and threw the packet out closed the window then sat down.
For a moment I heard the other travelers mumble then into the thin air their mumbles slowly dissipated. I didn’t say anything to the guy thereafter. But we engaged in some discussion with my seat mate about what had just happened.
He loathed the guy’s action just like I did. I believe the guy learnt a lesson but was just to proud to admit it. Probably he had his family in the bus and felt embarrassed and just wanted to show he is still in charge. Who knows? But one thing is certain, next time he will think twice before pulling off such a stunt.
From the foregoing you will realize that lack of dustbin is not really the problem, but the problem is the mindset of the individual citizen(s) who – unfortunately – in most instances fail to contemplate the impact(s) of their actions to the environment.
Our constitution gives every citizen the right to a clean and healthy environment as well as a collective duty to ensure such a right is respected and upheld at all times. Every Kenyan citizen should be made aware of this as matter of public interest.
Therefore, while I support NEMA’s move to have dustbins installed in all matatus I wish to also root for a comprehensive and extensive civic education program aimed at inculcating eco-consciouness among the Kenyan people. This way I believe we will have a more responsible citizenry that is keen on caring about the environment.
Mr. J. O. Asaka is a Nairobi based environmental consultant