Dustbins alone are not enough

The author, Mr J. O. Asaka. Photo/ Courtesy

 

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.

Public service vehicles on the streets of Nairobi, known locally as 'matatu'. They are now required to have dustbins for waste disposal. Photo/ http://www.changeyourt.com

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

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About meshakenya

Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture in Kenya (MESHA) is an association of communicators who are specialized in science, environment, agriculture, health, technology and development reporting.
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5 Responses to Dustbins alone are not enough

  1. Linda Keya says:

    It couldn’t be concluded in a more better way than how J. O. Asaka’s has put it. I also think that NEMA should engage in some civil education of sought to teach citizens on why litter should be thrown in the bins provided on the streets and most recently in public transport. As they do this, they should go a step further and lay out standards of the kind of bins to be installed in the matatus. Why do i say this? the other day i boarded a matatu that had a beautiful pink dust bin hanging right behind the drivers seat. Passengers had made good use of it as there was some litter. But, the bin was so shallow in depth and i kept imagining, if the matatu hit a pothole, all the dirt would most likely drop on the person seated by that! what happens if its in the morning and you are`headed to work? What i am trying to suggest is that NEMA should ensure the bins are deep enough, possibly have covers and also give leads on the places where the bins should be positioned. And if this guideline are their already, NEMA should check and confirm compliance.

  2. Martha says:

    You are spot on Eco-consciousness is needed, then again it goes back to the values inculcated in us as children. personally we were always taught never to litter anywhere, at times I draw attention in the streets of Nairobi , where i have been forced on several occasions to pick up a banana peel, I figure, if I don’t someone I know could step on it and slip . It all goes back to the home.

    • Asaka Jerry says:

      Good work you’re doing. Keep up with the spirit. And I agree with you we need to inculcate environmental responsibility in our children as they grow up so that when they are adults they would find it reasonable to care about nature. It can be done. We can do it.

      Environmental stewardship starts with you, the individual then spreads out to the entire community.

  3. Aghan Daniel says:

    Thanks Asaka, Linda and Martha for your views. I must single out Asaka’s good account which can also be compared to what I witnessed while on my first trip abroad – to Arusha, Tanzania, via Namanga Border in 1999. One passenger, white in colour decided to throw a used can of beer through the window. In a split of a second, another white guy who was seated behind us, qucickly ran to him yelled and told him in the face – “If you did this in Europe, you would be fined heavily!” He then ordered the driver to stop – we had gone like 300m away from the spot of the wrong doing. The wrong doer was made to dash back on foot and pick up his mess – it was a scene and a half for me. I learnt many things then. These days, I educate fellow pasengers by asking them to throw the refuse inside the bus/matatu or personal car and then deposit them in the next petrol station etc.

    Even as we think of the dustbins, we also need to help NEMA curb noise pollution in Nairobi’s matatus. I do not know why makangas and their drivers think that passengers board their vehicles for entertainment. In the morning you need to reach work fresh and not like someone from a disco. At the end of a long day, what you want is a peaceful, quiet and orderly passage home, not life threatening deafening noise from the matatus. I usually ask drivers to reduce the volume or seitch off what is hardly music!

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