Somalia’s Capital Struggles with Trash Problems

16 January, 2019

Before the civil war in Somalia, the capital, Mogadishu, was known for its wide beaches, fresh sea air and pure blue ocean water.

Today, however, large amounts of trash are spreading everywhere.

Mogadishu is home to two million people. It produces about 2,500 tons of useless waste every day. But, until recently, it did not have an official place to put waste material or a trash recycling center.

Instead, people have been leaving trash on the streets, placing it along the coast or into the Indian Ocean.

VOA's Somali Service recently reported on the problem. It found pictures of workers throwing trash into the water. Other pictures show huge amounts of cans, bottles, boxes, metal and other waste along the coastline.

Sometimes the trash burns, causing smoke and a bad smell to float into the city.

Smoke rises from piles of garbage dumped on Jazeera Beach, in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. (Courtesy - Jamal Ali)
Smoke rises from piles of garbage dumped on Jazeera Beach, in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. (Courtesy - Jamal Ali)

To deal with the problem, the Somali government officially announced the establishment of two waste landfills in December. One is in Mogadishu's north. The other is in a community just south of the city.

But observers say more action is needed.

Hassan Nur teaches at Mogadishu's Banadir University. He said there are no laws to prevent people from leaving trash all over the city.

"Waste management cannot work without legislation," he said.

Trash harms the city's health and environment

Parts of Mogadishu's coastline remain free of trash. Somalis gather in these areas to enjoy the sea breeze and play in the warm water. The sights remind many people that, before years of civil war and terrorism, the city was once known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

Mohamed Yahye is a Somali reporter. He told VOA he has seen all kinds of waste products left on Jazeera Beach. "I saw a tanker bring sewage waste and unload it onto the beach," he said.

Nur said that the open dumping of waste can lead to increased risk of cancer and other diseases.

"It's not just health problems. It also impacts on (the) environment – the air, the land," he said.

Omar Abdullahi Hassan is commissioner of the Wadajir district, which includes Jazeera beach. He said it is now illegal to leave trash there.

Mohamud Yusuf Hassan is head of the Environmental Cleaning Company. It is one of three companies identified by police as unloading trash on beaches. Police have yet to arrest anyone for doing so, however.

Hassan said his company, which employs over 300 people, is now listening to police. "We don't dump into the sea now," he said.

But his company is having trouble finding places to leave waste materials or to recycle trash. "There is no place to manage it," he said.

Hassan agreed that laws are needed to help control the problem.

The commissioner of Wadajir said his group has been working in recent weeks to get the large, new landfills into operation. He added that it is wrong to put trash on the beaches.

"Beaches are the most beautiful parts of this country," he said.

I'm Mario Ritter Jr.

Harun Maruf reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

beach – n. an area on next to the sea or a lake that is covered with sand or small rocks

recycle – v. to make something new from something that has been used before

impact – n. a powerful effect

breeze– n. a light, gentle wind

tanker n. an oil transport ship

pearl – n. something that is very special

managementn. the act of supervising or directing someone or something

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