Solid Waste Management in the City of Bahir Dar: A Matter of Capacity and Public Awareness

Yilkal Ayalew Workneh, CFGS – Centre for Federalism and Governance Studies, Addis Ababa University

Relevance of the Practice

Municipal Solid Waste Management (SWM) is a major issue of concern in local government service delivery. One of the problems in this service is related to the fact that many developing countries continue to urbanize rapidly. One of the challenges that the Ethiopian cities, particularly Bahir Dar city, face is the problem of SWM in particular. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Solid Waste Management (FDRE SWM) Proclamation no 513/2007 defines solid waste and SWM as follows: ‘Solid waste’ implies anything that is neither liquid nor gas and is discarded as unwanted. ‘Solid waste management’ means the collection, transportation, storage, recycling, or disposal of solid waste, or the subsequent use of a disposal site that is no longer operational. This report entry is intended to assess the municipal service delivery of SWM in Bahir Dar city administration, in the Amhara National Regional State. By so doing, the provision of SWM service is discussed in relation to the capacity of the municipality to discharge its function and the issue of public participation. In fact, public awareness has crucially affected the participation of the people in general and in SWM in particular.

Description of the Practice

Bahir Dar is one of the fast-growing tourist destination cities in Ethiopia. It is also the hub of commercial activities in the northeastern part of the country so that daily waste generation is increasingly sharply. In most states, the issue of SWM is a function of local government. In the same vein, the Bahir Dar city government has a legal mandate to organize the proper waste collection and disposal systems at sub-city and kebele level.

Apart from the city administration, the institutional arrangements and the main stakeholders in the SWM system in Bahir Dar include: the Regional Amhara Bureau of Environmental Protection, Land Administration and Use (BoEPLAU), the Regional Amhara Health Bureau (BoH), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Federal Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

In Bahir Dar city, solid waste is generated largely from three sources, namely (i) households, (ii) commercial activities, and (iii) institutions and street sweeping. Despite the involvement of a private company, an enormous amount of solid waste is collected by the micro and small enterprises through door-to-door collection. According to a report prepared by the city, the composition and generation rate of the waste in tons per day were residential (54 per cent), commercial (24 per cent), and institutional and street sweeping (4 per cent). This clearly shows that residential areas are the primary generators of waste. However, the current waste collection capacity is not matching waste generation. Studies showed that the quantity of solid waste generation of households in Bahir Dar city was significantly affected by household size and household aggregate income. This is due to the growth of the population, expansion of industrialization, and rapid urbanization disposal that the city is going through. 

In the door-to-door collection system, each house owner is expected to put solid waste in baskets or any kind of bags at the door side. The collectors pick up the solid waste along the door side, street sides, and pedestrian walkways using pushcarts and transport it to temporary storage sites for the trucks to finally take the waste to its final disposal point. However, the regularity of solid waste collection services is uneven. According to recent studies, only 27 per cent of households received SWM services from municipality waste collectors weekly. The remaining 9 per cent, 15 per cent, and 6 per cent households received solid the service within 15 days, 21 days and once in a month, respectively, and 43 per cent per cent of households never had access to solid waste collection, transportation, and final disposal into landfill services. 

Lack of public awareness and cooperation are found to be the main causes of problems concerning SWM. Before 2015, public awareness pertaining to SWM was deemed to be low. Despite some visible gaps witnessed these days, there is a considerable increase in public awareness towards SWM, particularly in regard to keeping and handling one’s household waste until the collectors take it and using street side bins, after the city administration, via kebele levels (the lowest level), engaged in a public awareness campaign. However, the city administration does not keep its awareness creation to the level those residents are able to acquire holistic environmental awareness. This limitation has attributed to lack of strong regulatory mechanisms and resource allocation which prohibited increased public awareness through training and sensibilization and eventually punishment to improve the performance of SWM service provision. 

Previously, the payment rate of collection fees was low (about 50 per cent) as the awareness of the public towards SWM (was) is low. This problem is currently relatively alleviated after integrated work has been done with other sector offices. In fact, the payment collection task has been undertaken by the water and sanitation office of the city administration. On water bills, each household is intended to pay about ETB 30 (EUR 0.55) per month for the solid waste disposals service fee.

Assessment of the Practice

The practice of provision of municipal SWM service in Bahir Dar city has been affected by problems related to institutional capacity and low public participation. The regularity of the solid waste collection service is uneven. This is due to partly the low number of solid waste collectors due to a low salary. Service fees and the provision of incentives must be re-considered to enhance the payment of solid waste collectors, and to enhance the participation of private sector and non-governmental organizations as well as the community to manage this problem.

The city administration has no clear regulatory mechanism of SWM in determining the type of waste and disposal as well as ways of treatment. There is neither a legally determined site for the solid waste collected from the aforementioned sources using pushcarts nor standard transfer stations in the city.[1] There are issues that prompted the municipality to re-think its public participation schemes and regulatory performance in SWM. People in residential areas, industries, hotels, and health centers still pay less attention to SWM and they dump waste along the roads and in open spaces or burn it insensitive to environmental issues. Standard solid waste transfer stations need to be set and there is a need for the promotion of environmentally friendly alternatives such as compost production as well as the establishment of systems and techniques to enhance efficiency to match the amount of waste generation with that of collection and disposal capabilities. To this end, institutional capacity building is deemed to be necessarily accompanied by access to training and education programs for every stakeholder in SWM.

References to Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications

Legal Documents:

The Revised Amhara Region Urbans’ Re-Establishment, Organization and Determination of their Powers and Duties Proclamation no 245/2017

Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications:

Asmare M and Alelign B, ‘Bahir Dar City Municipal Solid Waste Potential Assessment for Clean Energy’ (2019) 7 American Journal of Energy Engineering 28

Biruk A, ‘Waste Management in the Case of Bahir Dar City Near Lake Tana Shore in Northwestern Ethiopia: A Review’ (2017) 11 African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology 393

Kassahun T, ‘Households Solid Waste Generation and Management Behavior in Case of Bahir Dar City, Amhara National Regional State, Ethiopia’ (2018) 4 Cogent Environmental Science 1471025

Rathana K, ‘Solid Waste Management in Cambodia’ (CICP working paper no 27, Institute for Cooperation and Peace 2009)

[1] Molla Asmare and Belachew Alelign, ‘Bahir Dar City Municipal Solid Waste Potential Assessment for Clean Energy’ (2019) 7 American Journal of Energy Engineering 28.