Title: Solid waste management practices and challenges in communities surrounding wetland ecosystems in a developing nation - A case study of Uganda
Author: Emmanuel Okalang
Supervising Institution: IHE Delft - Institute for Water Education
Uganda covers a total land area of 241,038 km2 of which 26,315 km2 is covered by wetlands. 2.4 million (approximately 6.94%) out of the national total population of 34.6 million people as per the 2014 national population census directly depend on these wetland ecosystems for their subsistence employment and livelihoods. Despite all the benefits and services that are derived from these wetland ecosystems, the communities that live adjacent to them have common practice of indiscriminately dumping solid waste including plastics, and these affect the aesthetic values of these wetlands besides affecting their other ecological, hydrological and social functions. For this study, communities living adjacent to the three wetland ecosystems of Lakes Bisina, Wamala and Lutembe Bay (Lake Victoria) in Uganda were targeted. The study sought to identify, characterize and quantify the solid wastes generated; identify the common solid waste management practices and the solid waste management challenges faced by the communities in the selected wetland ecosystems of Lakes Bisina, Wamala and Lutembe Bay (Lake Victoria) in Uganda. There was investigation into community perceptions about their current solid waste management practices; willingness to pay for solid waste collection, disposal and management services; and stakeholders’ engagement in solid waste management interventions within the selected communities. Information was also sought on the existence and effectiveness of any solid waste management and/or wetland management legislative frameworks and plans; and whether there was willingness and readiness by the communities in the target study areas/ecosystems to accept and take part in the implementation of any appropriate solid waste management and wetland management legislative frameworks, plans and interventions that are meant to improve upon their solid waste management practices and reduce on wetland degradation and pollution as a result of poor solid waste management. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from the three study sites. The qualitative data was subjected to statistical analyses to generate information about different statistical parameters, whereas qualitative data was subjected to content analyses to understand the cause-effect relationships of how the different factors (external and internal) contribute and/or influence the solid waste management practices of the target communities and how these practices can have impacts and consequences on the wellbeing and livelihoods of these communities and to the wetland ecosystems that they depend on. The results from the study indicated that biowaste, plastic (constituting of plastic carrier bags and plastic bottles), paper, glass and metal were the respective dominant categories of solid waste being generated by the target households/communities in all the three selected study sites. Households from Lutembe Bay wetland ecosystem generated the largest amounts of waste with an approximation of about 0.50 to 0.75 kg/household/day, whereas communities from Lakes Wamala and Bisina had approximate solid waste generation of 0.25 to 0.50 kg/household/day. The major recommendations from the study were to advocate for attitudinal change for communities to manage their solid wastes using environmentally friendly waste management practices, strengthen policies geared towards ensuring proper solid waste management and empowering communities to better manage the solid waste that they generate.