Environment: Tewu Erasmus talks to Hilltopvoices on Waste management in Bamenda

By Shey Godbless 

As garbage heaps continue to form mountains at an exponential rate on a daily basis unabated in all the streets within the city of Bamenda, an environmentalist has sounded a strong warning for a bleak future if adequate measures are not  taken and on time. 
Waste along the streets of Bamenda 

Speaking to www.hilltopvoices.com in an exclusive interview, environmentalist TEWU Erasmus recounted a good number of areas where the increasing garbage heaps was impacting our environment negatively. He classified the effects on two fronts viz: short term and long term effects. 

To begin with, the founder of New Vision for an Eco-friendly Environment revealed that there was some toxic smell emanating from the heaps that were not humanly friendly. They cause toxic smell or air pollution. 
"As human beings we have different strengths of our respiratory systems and these toxic smells we inhale around our garbage heaps causes a lot of damage to our respiratory systems especially for people who live or do some activities around these areas and they are already getting familiar with this smell. I think that their respiratory systems are not familiar with it. There is a lot of air pollution and inhaling this toxic air is not good for the human beings around." Tewu began

He went further to state that early collection of the waste from the cans could lead to improvement in environmental consciousness. Failure to take the waste away on time and more the poor throwing of new waste to add to the already existing ones was bringing unmeasured effects on our environment 
Tewu Erasmus facilitating the transformation of plastics to pavement tiles 

"If there was some timely collection of waste you will discover the level of environmental consciousness will grow but if waste is already dumped everywhere it means that anyone can throw anything anywhere. Dumping waste carelessly on our streets or maybe having piles of waste that are not emptied in time it leads to floods. When it rains heavily, the runoff water pushes the garbage heaps. In an attempt to find its way into the streams and  since we also find ourselves in a system where I cannot remember any flowing stream in Bamenda that is not itself a garbage dump site, but most of our streams either share boundaries to public dump sites or they are themselves dump sites. When water gets into it, when water pushes most of these waste like plastic bottles tree branches anything shoes clothes into the streams it affects the flow of the stream and very soon we have blockages that will cause the water to overflow its bounds and we will have events of floods like we are having them recurrently." The environmentist continued 
Tewu Erasmus,  Environmentalist Leading a campaign against desertification in Bamenda 

The poor state of managing waste in our communities is not doing any good to our streams or rivers he went further. Come to think of it, that water too is polluted from these heaps as at times many people empty their garbage directly in the water which has its own occupants.

"Water is on its own is a habitat to aquatic life, most of the marine creatures, of the way we dump our waste, carelessly, water washes it down into the stream. Some people even dump theirs directly into the stream. We poison the fish that are in the stream we poison the creatures that were there. All creatures were created for a reason especially the ones in the waters too. When we make their own environment, their own ecosystems very difficult for them to live in, we see that this is not good. Poor waste management affects aquatic life as well." 

In the long run and if these mounts of garbage continue to litter our street corners, our environment is going to suffer from some issues which may be difficult to handle in the nearest future. A glaring example which he presents is climate change which is beginning to manifest it’s ugly face to us on a daily basis.
"These garbage heaps contributes a lot to climate change. We have always seen people in an attempt to reduce the waste in dumping sites especially in the dry season they will always set the waste ablaze and they are harmful gases that are emitted in this process of burning. We hear of gases like carbon dioxide carbon mono oxide that is emitted in the burning process and this goes a long way to contribute to global warming and climate change."

Soil fertility is definitely going to be affected where garbage disposal is not properly done. The North West Region depending mostly on Agriculture as its main economic activity will suffer much from these heaps of garbage in the long run. To him plastics deposited on the soil that will take a thousand years to decompose was just cancer inflicted on our soil system. 

"We also have soil contamination especially in the long run. Most dump sites form what is called death zones meaning that the soil is polluted with toxic substances that crops may never be able to grow on such lands again. Plastics in particular are like cancer to the environment since they can take about a millennium to decompose." 

Matching words with realities, Mr. TEWU Erasmus sited the case of Mile three and Mile four of late where we have had nasty scenes which are products of persistent flooding. 

"What is happening there is not really a result of the heavy rains. We have always had heavy rains like this before, yet we didn’t have this kind of flooding. The problem is that no one actually paid attention to the garbage that had been piling up under that bridge and we are suddenly noticing it now when the water is about to kiss the bridge even without rain fall. The foundation of it is that waste was gradually making its way under that bridge mixing with mud and no one paid attention to it. We are suddenly noticing it now.  If we do not address the way we dump our waste or waste management, we will always see that soon all our streams will always be like that. It’s really going to be a difficult situation should we get there." 
#EndCovid237 #CmrFreeCovid19 

Apart from environmental hazards, TEWU Erasmus mentioned health and social effects from these heaps of waste to our society. 

"Heaps of uncollected waste also serves as a good breathing ground for mosquitoes. When we dump organic waste like food residues, we attract a lot of mosquitoes that come to feed on it. And this is a very conducive atmosphere for their multiplication and when these insects of different varieties fly around, they carry different bacteria from the dust bin and they contaminate nearby exposed food. Because these insects and mosquitoes in particular, they are vectors of parasites they will fly around. You and I know instances around Bamenda especially around markets, sometimes, less than twenty meters away, you will find somebody selling food or fruits and these fruits are sometimes exposed. When we buy these fruits like water melon or even pineapples that have been peeled that you don’t have to wash before consuming somehow it may be these exposed and when these insects land on it, you never can know what they drop on it as parasites because most of these things are not things we can see with our bare eyes. This causes a lot of harm to us who buy and consume these items." 

Adding to short term effects of garbage mounts that the environmentalist Tewu Erasmus pointed out was the absence of the beauty of the town. 

"It deprives the town of its esthetic beauty. Imagine the town of Bamenda getting the reputation of the dirty city, tourist will be discouraged to visit it, visitors will be discouraged from visiting the town of Bamenda because they will always know that you will see piles of dirt everywhere and the streets are smelling. Imagine how this will also water down the ambiance of the Bamenda man especially when they want to align him with the streets and where he is coming from. If we have streets that are overflowing with garbage, and garbage heaps that are hardly collected in time, you will discover that many people will find it difficult to take their waste to the dust bin. They know that the dust bin is already overflowing and what is the essence of taking more waste from your house to the bin when you don’t even know when it will ever be emptied." 
Tewu Erasmus, Environmentalist and founder of New Vision for an Eco-friendly Environment 

With all this in mind, the environmentalist says all is not lost and presents six steps that could be taken to mitigate the situation in time. To him this should be done with a holistic approach.

Firstly is Education which should be done at all levels, households businesses, everybody gets involved, everybody gets to know the impact of their actions on the environment and they just get that general awareness. Secondly, segregation should be done at the level of the households at the level of the businesses. Thirdly, should be collection of garbage which is going to be done by competent authorities. Fourthly should be treatment of the garbage which is mostly done for toxic waste. Fifthly should be recycling of the waste and finally there should be disposal.

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