Poor waste disposal is increasingly becoming a major public health concern, especially in our cities. The menace of refuse on our streets is symbolic of a larger collapse and communal disarrangement, and I honestly wonder what bogus image of ourselves we can afford to project which the filths on our roads won’t defile. The tidiness of the highways and their adjacent drains are the first impression that we can give to people visiting our communities. This is perhaps why many of us play the ostrich about waste disposal. We deny the severity of the awful end of our poor waste disposal methods but go on to hide our disgustful materials in the collector drains from the eyes of visitors for the sheer shame of it.

Whenever it rains, ignorant citizens often see it as an opportunity to dump their filths into the drainage flow. To this set of people, the storm water is nature’s waste relief window for them to throw out their waste materials. The second group of people are the “not-so untidy” citizens who think they can litter the roads, but not the drains, forgetting that the litters on the road share a common destination with those thrown directly in the drains. Then we have the third category of people who patronise illicit scavengers or who transfer the duty of disposing their wastes to those who are surely not going to handle it responsibly. There isn’t much difference between these categories of people because they all seek to get rid of their wastes without caring about the negative impact on the environment. Before we talk of government intervention, waste management is a task that should be handled responsibly by every individual.

Unfortunately, state governments sometimes do not conduct adequate screening for the companies involved in their Public- Private Partnership (PPP) programs on waste collection and disposal. This act of nonchalance makes the respective governments as culpable as the third category of people earlier described. Since everyone leaves the task of waste management to someone else and governments also concede their statutory supervisory role to their noncommittal agencies who hire the services of PPP participators, our highway drains are the way they are!

Refuse and debris hinder the free flow of storm water. Elementary science should have taught us that when the concrete drainage channels are loaded with debris they clog drainage screens and the drains become containers instead of passage channels. Even when the biodegradable waste materials decompose into humus, they distort the engineering precision of the channels’ design and reduce volumetric capacity for containment of flow. When these drains get full enough, the resultant flood breaks into residences – the homes of the ones those who littered them – to wreak havoc. At this point, everyone usually denies the cause of this situation. But may I remind us that the beginning of the colossal collateral collapse is the careless tossing of wrappers of our packed products and other waste materials on our streets.

We must be conscious of the fact that these drains, which we are clogging with wastes, do have terminals. And ultimately, those terminals are our respective homes where the consequences of all our illicit dumping come back to. Consequently, we must replace the prevailing attitude of indifference with a culture of responsibility as far as waste disposal is concerned. Like Winston Churchill said, responsibility is the price for greatness. Taking personal responsibility for the cleanliness of our communities will impact on our health as individuals. In the same vein, a tidy environment will impact on our physical fitness.