Most rural areas in Swaziland are underdeveloped such that sewer pipes and infrastructure are not accessible to many residents.
The consequence is that many communities use pit latrines. Using a pit latrine is less than pleasant because they cannot be flushed and they have a life span which means a new pit must be dug after a couple of years.
The lack of proper sewer infrastructure poses numerous environmental problems for rural communities.
Firstly, rural communities develop in close proximity to water sources for purposes of farming and subsistence, which means latrines are close to water sources.
Secondly, to avoid disease latrines are built at a certain distance from the homestead. This means that land available to erect a pit latrine is limited.
Thirdly, latrines require a certain degree of digging which requires removal of vegetation and the potential fracturing of underground habitats.
The unorganised manner in which sewer waste is dealt with in rural areas is not sustainable and has the potential for raising problems on different levels as highlighted above.
The communities in rural areas not only run the risk of diseases such as cholera, but also the contamination of healthy water sources when erratic weather conditions occur. As communities grow, land runs out. This may cause tensions emanating from a scarcity of land and resources. In the next couple of years, the country may find itself faced with an environmental disaster that would be hard to reverse.
Government must soon consider putting in place appropriate waste management structures in rural areas. It is not necessary that government adopt expensive measures. Strategically placed communal toilets with a managed sewer system are a good example of options available to the government.
In the meantime, government can also be involved with communities by educating them on what measures they can take for the time being, while corrective measures are being developed.
Waste management is important for the wellbeing of people and the environment, and as such should take priority when formulating environmental policies.
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