After the hustle and bustle of Tunisia’s capital medina dies down, the kids come out to play – in the trash! A large open area just a few blocks from the main tourist attraction, a space between two buildings has been converted into an unofficial dump full of disused toilets, chemicals, and all manner of organic and recyclable waste.
Compared to Egypt, Tunisia has a 5 star waste management system but lags when compared to European cities. In 2009, 10 landfills serviced 10 million people. But now, with help from World Bank funds, nine new landfills are being created throughout the country and a 5th cell will be added to one in Tunis. Check out our photos of just one of 400 uncontrolled dumps in the country.
2.25 Million Tonnes of Trash Annually
A 2010 waste management report released by ANGed, the government office responsible for ensuring the most expedient treatment of waste in Tunisia, shows that the country produces approximately 2.25 million tonnes of waste each year.
Of this, 70% is properly disposed of in regulated landfills, although government officials then acknowledged that there were virtually no recycling or compositing facilities equipped with diverting unnecessary waste.
Municipalities are responsible for paying 20% of the costs of trash collection, while the state takes care of the rest, but many rural areas lack the funds necessary to fulfill these obligations. This was before the Jasmine Revolution and before the inexperienced ruling Islamic party won power in the country’s first fair elections.
Many secular Tunisians on the street have voiced concern that the ruling party does a lot of talking but less acting; they also worry how relatively well-equipped municipal programs will fare under the Islamic party’s control.
Arab Spring Funds
Yet one side effect of the Arab Spring is the western world’s eagerness to support what they hope will be a democratic process. Case in point: the World Bank has committed to a USD 22 million loan that will help ANGed to improve its outdated infrastructure.
Unmanaged waste at unofficial dumps release methane gas and create a breeding ground for mosquitoes and flies. Plus, it’s a public health concern when children are running through dumps full of improperly disposed chemicals and other hazardous materials, not to mention that chasing balls through heaps of trash can’t be fun for anyone.
But at least the issue is being addressed. We see ANGed on the streets every night clearing the day’s accumulated litter – particularly in areas frequented by tourists, and although downtown Avenue Habib Bourguiba can get cruddy at times, overall it’s a pleasant place to go for a stroll.
Let’s hope Cairo will take cues from Tunis!
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