Garbage in vacant land in the capital pose health dangers

Published on 27 December 2012 in Report
Amira Nasser (author), Amira Nasser (photographer)

Amira Nasser


Amira Nasser

Unfenced piles of trash accumulate throughout the city.

Unfenced piles of trash accumulate throughout the city.

In the Al-Sonaina district in Sana’a, Waleed Mahdi, a father of four, says there is a problem with waste and it’s growing. In this residential area, vacant land is being turned into a trash dumps.  

With no official designated area to dispose of the waste, the garbage piles are creating heath concerns for locals.

“When these places are filled with rubbish, the residents resort to burning it in order to rid of it,” Mahdi said.  “Therefore, the smoke rising from the burning process pollutes the environment and inflicts us with disease.”

Neighbors complain these communal trash dumps are attracting stray dogs and insects and are an eyesore for the neighborhood.

“Living in such an area is a nightmare. We cannot relax in our homes,” Mahdi added.  

Um Amar, a resident in Al-Qadisia area, said her area has the same problem.  Construction waste is especially prevalent.  

She is really worried about the health of the local population, especially children whose immune systems can be compromised by constant exposure to garbage.

“We cannot prevent our children from going to such places because there are no alternative places to go.”

Although there are government services meant to clean these areas, they often are outside the city center  and therefore receive less attention.  

Those who are assigned to dispose of the trash partially blame citizens.

Mohammed Al-Marzooki, the head of Cleaning Laborers Syndicate, said that even if they do remove the trash, locals continue to carelessly toss their trash wherever.

“Just hours after the street cleaners finish cleaning a particular place, it is teeming with flying plastic bags again,” he said.  

Al-Marzooki said they are coordinating efforts with the government foundation, the Cleaning Project, to increase education about waste management.  

They want citizens to keep their waste in closed, fenced areas.  This would require landlords to take responsibility for the fenced areas.  However, many citizens say this measure lacks substance because there is no administrative body to provide oversight.    

The vacant lands being used as trash dumps have not been officially counted and therefore hard to change, said Jamal Juhaish, the general manager of the Cleaning Project.

Incomplete building projects have also proven difficult for the Cleaning Projects.

“It is difficult to remove the trash from these low places, we need cranes to do that,” he said.  

 The Public Works office has been assigned the job of enforcing landlords to fence the open lands.

Sadeq Al-Qadasi, the deputy director of the Public Works office, said they have offered to build fences for landlords, but landlords have to foot the cost of the project.

Al-Qadasi further said they have been very ineffective due to lack of security by the state.  He says those working at his office have been threatened by landlords with guns.  

 “The Public Works office has notified landlords to fence their plots but unsuccessfully. The security situation is not stable. If there is no security, no work will be achieved,” he said.

Juhaish added that the Cleaning Project is currently trying to take inventory of the vacant lands.  He says a clear map will make it easier for them to target landlords who are not complying.