This Week our columnist Gerald Kitabu interviewed Suleiman Mluge, Chairman of Kivukoni Mapambano Economic and Development Group (KIMEDEGRO), the Dar’s ferry market participatory security and environment cleanliness group on beach degradation and environmental cleanliness along the Indian Ocean. Excerpts:
Question: Your group is involved in environmental cleanliness at Kivukoni beach and along the Indian Ocean, what is the state of the environment?
Answer: The state of the environment at Kivukoni Ward is not good because many Tanzanians do not know or have little knowledge on the environment management and cleanliness in particular and this is not only at Kivukoni or Ferry market but also in many places along the ocean the environment is very poorly managed.
Experience shows that many Tanzanians do not value their environments, they have no culture of valuing cleanliness and make it part of their daily lives. Kivukoni Ward and Ferry Market in particular is a business hub for many fish businessmen and women. So, because of massive influx of many people from diverse backgrounds, the place is always congested with people and so wastes and garbage materials are must.
Q: Why do many people not value their environment?
A: Facts speak for themselves. For example, very regularly, one would see fishermen dragging fish from the ocean, on the sand towards the mainland or the market place without knowing that by so doing, it is an act of environment degradation. Similarly, fumes and smoke from vehicles and commuter buses such as the daladala which ferry people through the Ferry Market along the ocean and beaches contribute to environmental pollution. Sometimes, few uncivilized people may spit or discharge mucus from their nose anywhere.
Others tend to eat banana or orange and throw the peels in the ocean or simply undress and urinate along the ocean which is unhealthy for themselves and others. So, if you ask them to stop, many would hate you or simply abuse or ridicule you because it is not their culture.
Q: What is the state of beaches along the Indian Ocean?
A: The situation is the same. Beaches are not safe nowadays, they have been continuously subjected to massive wastes, garbage, soft plastic bags, decomposed and rotten materials, effluents from industries and toilets, animals’ remains, foods leftovers, and fruits remain etc. During holidays and weekends, many people who visit the beaches do not carry dustbins for keeping food remains and other waste materials. They normally leave the beaches very dirty as if they will never go back again.
Q: What is the direct impact of such degradation?
A: Beaches are well known for provision of fresh air. Good beaches attract both local and foreign tourists as such they earn the country foreign exchange. If they are polluted, no serious tourist will go to stay in a foul-smelling air. A chronic disease such as cholera, diarrhea which is persisting in some communities living along the ocean is a result of mismanagement of the environment.
However, hard plastics, fishing wires and bottles may stick to the propeller of the ocean vessel and if that happens, it may endanger smooth movement of the vessels. Fish are also affected by dynamite fishing which is on the increase in various places along the ocean perpetrated by coastal fisheries communities something which threatens breeding grounds.
Q: So, since your group launched the campaigns on cleanliness exercise along Kivukoni beaches and the ocean, do you see any changes?
A: I would say there are many changes that have been registered until now, although we still have a long way to go. For example, when we arrest people polluting the environment, we usually take them to the city court and after punishment; they come back as changed people. Sometimes we do punish them to clean the environment for three consecutive months for destroying the environment and when they finish their punishment, they never repeat their mistakes. As for market businessmen, we punish them first and if they defy the punishment we stop them from doing business in this area.
Q: How do you control outsiders?
A: During our patrols, we arrest them, educate and direct them what to do in order to make sure that they understand the need for clean environment. If they refuse, they face same music. Our experience shows that after the punishment, many never repeat the mistakes. Those repeating face very severe punishment.
Q: Do you get support from people?
A: As I said earlier, many people do not know the value and benefits of the environment as such, the level of cooperation from the general public is very little. Many think that it is not their responsibility to make the beach places clean. I therefore, call upon the media, and other stakeholders to educate people on proper beach management for the benefit of our city and the nation.
Q: What are the challenges?
A: There are many challenges. For example, our group which is just volunteering has no funds, it has no equipments such as gumboots, pushcarts, uniforms, gloves and blooms to name but a few. Lack of working tools sets back our cleanliness operations along the Lake.
If donors were willing to fund our group, our beaches along the ocean would have been shining with many tourists. Another challenge is the need for training on environmental knowledge and cleanliness among the group staff. Knowledge on environmental management is vital for effective and efficient performance of their duties and responsibilities. Another problem is the lack of financial support from donors something which has crippled most of our operations along the lake.
Q: How do you control ruffians who stay along the beaches terrorizing passers-by?
A: Unlike the past, nowadays we have fixed most of them following regular operations along the Indian Ocean, only that our efforts are being let down by lack of working tools, but if the tools were available, we would have smoked all of them out.
Q: what is your call?
A: Dar city cleanliness will depend on people’s willingness to change. Therefore, I call upon all people to change their mindset and value the environment because it is where life derived from. No body will come from outside and clean our environment, it is ourselves. So every body should play his or her part.