Sewage in Kigali still an issue of concern
Cyahafi in Gitega Sector is messy. Clogged drainage channels overflow with sewage and other waste from upper parts of the city, causing a permanent pungent smell over this densely populated slum.
Though some measurers have been taken to deal with sanitation and waste management in Kigali City, the situation in Cyahafi represents the challenges still faced by city authorities in the area of sanitation.
While crossing this slum, you will not miss to see overflowing gutters where sewage from higher altitude residential areas ends up.
Julienne Musengimana, a resident of Kabahizi cell, Gitega sector of Nyarugenge district, explains the problem has been there for a long time. Musengimana who lives in a tiny shop close to a sewage channel says that this is not only a problem for her who stays around, but also a put-off to her clients who come to buy milk, banana juice and other soft drinks.
“At least when it rains, sewage can be washed away, but it can be messy here during dry season,” she says.
Yet the gutters, being open, bring other troubles when it rains — with all the waste flooding into shops and residences. Sometimes human beings have been washed away.
Last year, a schoolgirl called Trifine Uwayo drowned after she was carried down-stream by the run-off water. Another unidentified old man was found dead in the channel, apparently after he was killed by run-off water.
“We saw his jacket and thought that it was rubbish as it has been the case, but we realized later that it was an old man taken by water,” Musengimana recalls.
Idrissa Nkurunziza, secretary executive of Gitega sector, recognizes the sewage issue in his sector.
“We really do not have sustainable mechanism to deal with sewage here,” Nkurunziza says. “It’s a big problem.”
In addition to sewage from residential areas, he says that more waste runs into the area from Kigali University Teaching Hospital and Sulfo industries.
The sewage from Gitega is channeled to Mpazi – a small river between Gitega and Kimisagara sectors of Nyarugenge district from where it goes to Nyabarongo and Nyabugogo rivers.
Obviously the sewage from industrial and hospital settings contains hazardous chemicals which when exposed to human, can caused health problems. This threat to environmental sustainability probably can cause water-borne diseases and health problems associated with the overexposure to lead.
City officials say sewage management remains big challenge in some parts of the city because they were occupied when there was no master plan. They however say that short and long-term measures have been designed to ensure sanitation in the city.
Bruno Rangira, the communication manager in Kigali City said that the problem is being sorted out. He said a study has been completed for a central sewage treatment plant which will be set up somewhere in Nyabugogo. The plant that will collect sewage from all parts of the city is a long-term measure aimed at improving sanitation. He said that funds are being mobilized to build the plant.
The estimated cost to set up the plant is US$ 70 million while the implementation would start by the next financial year, he said.
Though the sewage is channeled to the rivers, officials say “it’s illegal and against environmental sustainability” given that gutters are constructed only for rain water flow.
“Sewage must be kept in septic tanks and treated,” Rangira explains. “We work with local authorities and national police to ensure that people do not put sewage and waste in the gutters,”
In the meantime, short-term measures to deal with the problem have been put in place. For instance, all urban residents of the city are required to put in place a storage mechanism of rain water and septic tanks for sewage water. The same necessities are also among requirements when issuing construction permits, he adds.
Moreover, all industrial plants, hotels and restaurants must follow the same regulations and must not channel kitchen-waste to the water drainage systems.
Officials are confident that there will no longer be sewage in the city once the plant is constructed. “Sewage treatment is among our main priorities. We are working with determination to ensure sanitation around the city,” Rangira said.