Tanzania – a country of stunning beauty, cultural diversity, untouched nature … and a massive problem of pollution. In August 2015 we are going about this.
The country and the problem
Tanzania – like many other African countries – isn’t populated evenly. Great parts of the country are still not connected to the road network and the majority of the people lives right next to one of the few developed roads which go through the country. Most shops, bars and restaurants are located at these roads, they are the main center of social activity. But human life always causes pollution and waste. Unlike some countries in Europe, Tanzania is not equipped with a solid waste management. Waste can only be burned though the predominant part of plastic bottles and bags, packing and cans just ends up next to the road.
Therefor, over the last years, the roadside ditches got filled up with platic waste. The fact that there is no better alternative is not the only reason though. Even more decisive is the Tanzanians’ lack of knowledge about plastic and pollution. Indeed government has been trying to improve the situation for example by prohibiting one-time plastic bags (2006). But so far the Tanzanian people have not been educated properly and few are aware that their behavior is harming their country and their direct environment. Long-term effects are disastrous: it takes hundreds of years for plastic to degenerate, and meanwhile the wind can spread the waste all over the country, thus affecting not only the areas in the vicinity of the roads but the whole landscape. Inevitably, the plastic waste ends up in untouched nature, where the animals cannot digest it and could die a painful death.
Hitherto the better part of the waste produced in the small Tanzanian villages is either left in the nature or burned or buried. Each of these three methods of waste management is dangerous to mankind and nature. Toxic smoke is produced by the cremation of plastic and the slow corrosion in open nature leads to tiny plastic particles in the underground water. This ressource – essential for survivial to humans as to animals – will hereby be contaminated for a long time. Moreover the masses of waste plug pipes for clean and sewage water creating lakes of waste and effluent which attract vermin and mosquitos – animals that spread epidemics and sicknesses like Malaria. Further facts concerning plastic:
- – UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) estimates the number of seabirds dying per year as a result of plastic consumption to be about 1 million
- – Conventional plastic takes about 450 years to start the process of degradation meaning a barbie doll for 1995 begins to decompose in the year 2445
- – A conventional plastic bag is used for about half an hour in average. Afterwards it remains on earth for about 100 to 400 years (more).
- – Meanwhile in Mauretania – like in several more countries – the production and the consumption of one-time plastic bags is prohibited.
- – A car could drive the distance of 11 meters using the oil necessary to produce a single plastic bag.
What we are going to do
In August and September of 2015 we as a group will walk through Tanzania and collect the waste we find on our way. Some of us come from Europe or America, others from Tanzania and Kenya. Due to our work throughout the last years we made a lot of friends in the area and it is crucial to us to create a multicultural group for the Waste Walk. Not only to avoid the appearance of “white teachers” (who we are not) but more importantly to show that the protection of our environment concerns all of us equally.
Walking for weeks will certainly lead to interesting discussions about our different points of view and experiences, thus enriching all of us and bringing up ideas for future plans and cooperations.
We will start in the town of Moshi right at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and finish our march in the (inofficial) capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam. In the end we will pile up our collected waste and hand it over to a company which will make sure the material is recycled propery.
What are our goals?
Sure in the first place it is about cleaning the country of as much waste and plastic as possible. Each bag, every bottle we collect can be re-used instead of rotting in the African steppe.
Certainly this is not a long-term solution. So we don’t have to walk through the country every year it is important to explain to the Tanzanian people we meet on our way why we do this. Our campain will be publicly recocnized, many Tanzanians will talk about and discuss it. Hereby we got the enormous chance to boost the ecological awareness within the entire population. We will not miss this chance and hand out flyers and posters on our way to answer the question why a group of foreigners walkes through the country and collects their waste. We already know quite some people in Tanzania and we are sure the majority would stop throwing their waste into nature as soon as they get to know enough to understand how much this harms nature.
The collected waste will be canned in Dar es Salaam and recycled by a local company. This will also be told to the people we meet on the road to draw their attention to better alternatives of waste management. Though we are aware that we cannot build up a functional waste management from one day to another we hope our campaign will trigger some new initiatives within the Tanzanian people themselves.
Who we are
We are a group of young people from different countries, most of us have been to East Africa before where we have seen the problem of a missing waste management.
Most of our active members already know each other through their work for the organization Bonfaremo which has been supporting school project in Africa since 2011. We have visited Tanzania (several times) to join Bonfaremo projects and get to know the country and its people.