THE ‘Make Zambia clean, green and healthy’ campaign kicked off last Saturday on a rather low note.
While there was adherence by some government institutions such as the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) and parastatals like the Zambia Daily Mail, there was resistance from others, though not deliberate.
Most business houses in the Lusaka central business district and elsewhere started the day by cleaning up their premises before opening.
It was gratifying to see President Edgar Lungu walking the talk by joining other well-meaning Lusaka residents at Chakunkula Primary School in Chelstone township where he led other government officials in planting orange trees.
Planting trees, which is under the ‘Plant a million trees, is an extension of the ‘Make Zambia clean, green and healthy’ campaign launched last month.
ZEMA corporate affairs manager Ireen Chipili who was on the ground in Bauleni, was happy with the participation of the local leadership in the cleaning of the market.
ZEMA was in the area to promote sound environmental management in the exercise complemented by five companies which availed their trucks for transportation of garbage from Bauleni to Chunga dumpsite.
Lafarge Zambia, Lilume Quarry, Tainyu Investments, Wonderful Ceiling and Gold Tiger generously made available their vehicles to the clean-up exercise while Adils and Baba Engineering supplied gloves to ensure people who participated in the cleaning had personal protective gear.
Men and women from Chunga were also on hand to pick up recycleable items from the garbage site with a view to teaching Bauleni residents that not all garbage is waste.
ZEMA also told community members to desist from the habit of burning garbage and encouraged them to subscribe to garbage collectors.
Kabulonga ward 16 councillor Patrick Mwansa said garbage collection has been an on-going exercise in Lusaka Central Constituency.
Mr Mwansa said about 250,000 tonnes of garbage was collected during the outbreak of cholera, hence the low incident of the disease, including diarrhea.
He says there is need for change of mindset to make the environment clean and wants more residents involved in sanitising Bauleni.
Mr Mwansa commended garbage collectors for their commitment but wants more bins as well as the increase in the number of trucks for picking up of waste.
Recyclers Association of Zambia chairperson Harrison Musonda was at hand to sensitise Bauleni residents on the need to segregate garbage and to begin to turn waste into a resource.
Mr Musonda wants citizens at large to appreciate the existence of collectors, aggregators and processors in the waste management sector.
Citizens can be putting plastics and bottles aside which they can be selling to aggregators and processors to make money.
While citizens are willing to implement the presidential directive to make ‘Zambia, clean, green and healthy’ leadership and ownership of the programme is lacking.
For instance, for Richard Lungu, assistant director in the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection showed up in Bauleni to join ZEMA members of staff because his employers had not organised a cleaning event.
He therefore volunteered to make his way to Bauleni to join ZEMA, a statutory body under his ministry.
There must have been several public service workers out there who found themselves in Mr Lungu’s position because nobody provided leadership.
But Mr Lungu’s conscious haunted him to act while others watched from the sidelines.
Lack of leadership at ministerial level could have been the reason why President Lungu wondered that Cabinet ministers were with him in Chelstone instead of being elsewhere participating in the clean-up exercise.
Going forward, State House may have to delegate an inter-ministerial committee comprising Health, Defence, Environmental Protection and Local Government to be responsible for implementation of the presidential directive.
There may also be need to create structures in the community for the cleaning programme to work.
Not every worker should be cleaning their premises but employers should begin to look outside the box like ZEMA did.
Being the first month since the launch of the campaign, a lot more citizens, government institutions, parastatals and the private sector were expected to turn out.
While there may not have been total adherence to the first cleaning exercise, the task to inculcate a cleaning culture has begun.
There is need for more hype for the participation of many citizens ahead of the World Environment Day on June 5.
This is a very important event in the calendar of all environmentally responsible citizens, especially Zambians as we begin to re-dedicate ourselves to do a lot more this year to fight environmental degradation. It’s time to act.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail