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Ensuring safe and continuous waste management during Covid-19 in Uganda

NatuReS supports the development of health and safety guidelines for solid waste handlers in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area and Gulu City

waste handlers Uganda
Municipal waste collectors depositing waste in Kiteezi landfill, Kampala, with waste pickers searching for recyclables.
Copyright: GIZ/ Dr. Swaib Semiyaga

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the introduction of control and prevention measures such as wearing face masks, mandatory quarantine at home or in a hotel, the composition of municipal waste has changed in Uganda. Municipal waste, which is collected from households, commerce and trade, office buildings, institutions and small businesses, as well as yard and garden waste and street sweepings, now includes infectious waste. This puts particularly solid waste handlers at an increased risk of infection, which has made the continuous provision of solid waste management services difficult.

However, waste that is not being collected ends up polluting water and soil, representing a risk to the health of communities, or blocking drainage channels, which increases the risk of flooding in cities. A continuous, safely carried out, waste management service is therefore essential for cities, also and particularly in pandemic times.

solid waste Uganda
Private waste collection company Smart Home Smart Garbage Cleaning Services Ltd at landfill in Gulu City.
Copyright: GIZ/Dr. Swaib Semiyaga

Protecting natural resources by guaranteeing for continued waste mangement

It is against this background, that local governments in Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA) and Gulu City in Northern Uganda, with the support of GIZ’s Natural Resources Stewardship Programme, developed solid waste safety and handling guidelines.

The guidelines aim at supporting solid waste regulators, companies and individuals in GMKA and Gulu City in improving the health and safety of solid waste handlers. Specifically, they will contribute to (i) improved working conditions for solid waste handlers; (ii) safeguarded jobs due to the reduced risk of Covid-19 infections at work; (iii) increased awareness about Covid-19 and adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs), and (iv) behavior change towards improved management of solid waste.

Health and safety guidelines for waste handlers

The guidelines include a code of conduct for waste handlers, Covid-19 SOPs for solid waste handlers, exaplaining the role of waste handlers’ associations, and a section on Covid-19 prevention and control.

The fight against the pandemic requires concerted efforts, and NatuReS is committed to continuing its support to partners during this challenging period. Protecting natural resources requires a continued safe and reliable waste management. The guidelines are an important aspect of guaranteeing such a continued service, while protecting waste handlers and their income.

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Strengthening compliance to Ugandan water and environmental regulations by Commercial Flower Farms

Wetlands in Uganda form a unique ecosystem that supports diverse animal and plant life, and contain, store, and purify large quantities of water flows in the catchments of Lake Victoria basin. However, the basin is experiencing rapid population growth, and destructive anthropogenic activities. Examples are unplanned urban settlements and inappropriate agricultural practices, which are the biggest drivers for the deteriorating water quality and degradation of precious wetland ecosystems in the area. One water-intensive and dependant sector present in the area is the floriculture sector – 13 out of 15 commercial flower farms in the country are located in Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA) around the Lake Victoria basin.

Protecting water and wetland ecosystems

The flower industry in Uganda provides employment opportunities, foreign exchange, and domestic revenue to the Ugandan economy. According to the Uganda Flower Exporters Association, the industry’s investments in GKMA are estimated at USD 100 Million, providing about 10,000 jobs to people, of which 80 per cent are women. With the increasing expansion of the industry coupled with rapid population increase around GKMA, the pressure on water and wetland resources has increased. To safeguard the investments of the commercial flower farms, the jobs they provide to the people, and to maintain the ecological functions of the water and wetland ecosystems, there is a need to strengthen collaboration and coordination by the commercial flower farms, the government institutions and non-state actors for sustainable use and management of water and wetland resources in GKMA.

group in front of Water Resources Institute
Attendees of the Commercial Flower Farm Integrated Catchment Management Partnership meeting at the Water Resources Institute, Entebbe. Copyright: GIZ/Alisa Knoll

The Commercial Flower Farms Integrated Catchment Management Partnership

The Commercial Flower Farms Integrated Catchment Management Partnership aims at strengthening collaboration between the public, private sector, and non-state actors in the flower industry for sustainable use of natural resources in GKMA. The partners are the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE), the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), NatureUganda (a conservation organisation) and the Uganda Flower Exporters Association (UFEA) that coordinates and mobilises the 13 commercial flower farms in Greater Kampala. Together, the partners aim at:

  • improving the commercial flower farms’ compliance to national water and environmental regulations alongside international standards  
  • strengthening occupational safety, health and environmental management practices by the flower farms and surrounding communities to foster better working conditions and safeguard jobs
  • reducing waste generated from both farms and communities around the wetland systems in the area
  • promoting wise use of water and wetland resources around commercial flower farms
man giving a presentation
Dr. Jerome Lugumira (Partnership Focal Person from NEMA) giving a presentation to participants. Copyright: GIZ/Alisa Knoll

Compliance support to the Commercial Flower Farms

On November 16th, 2021, key partners and focal points appointed by the commercial flower farms for this partnership, gathered for a meeting at the Water Resources Institute of the Ministry of Water and Environment. The objective of the meeting was to understand the water and environmental regulatory requirements (including procedures and processes) to be undertaken in acquiring the different water abstraction permits and certificates to operate by the Commercial flower farms

The meeting was also an opportunity for the commercial flower farms focal persons to provide feedback to the government agencies on the current challenges they face in the process of complying with national regulations. The focal persons then visited the Ministry of Water and Environment’s National Water Quality laboratory, a state-of-the-art laboratory for water analysis to learn about the services offered and how they can make use of the laboratory in their compliance activities.

Uganda Water Resouces Institute
Mr. Katumba Godfrey (Principal Water Analyst at the National Water Quality Laboratory) during a site-visit at the Ministry of Water and Environment’s Water Quality Laboratory to commercial flower farm focal persons. Copyright: NatureUganda/ Jimmy Muheebwa

Ensuring compliance to water and environmental regulations

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is mandated to regulate, monitor, supervise and coordinate all activities related to the environment, including the activities of the commercial flower farms. Dr. Jerome Lugumira, the partnership focal person from NEMA, presented the relevant provisions of the National Environment Act 2019, subordinate regulations, standards and guidelines that the flower farms have to comply with. He pledged NEMA’s continued compliance support to the flower farms in order to improve compliance to environment regulations for sustainable use of natural resources in GKMA

Similarly, water regulation through the permit system is one of the core functions of the Directorate of Water Resources Management (DWRM). Ms. Sylvia Nanyunja, the partnership focal person from DWRM gave a presentation on the processes to obtain and renew water permits for surface, ground water and wastewater discharge permits. She highlighted the terms, costs and the procedure to obtain and renew the different permits as provided in the National Water policy and the Water Action Plan.

Referring to the Uganda Wetlands Atlas, covering greater Kampala, Mr. Achilles Byaruhanga (Executive Director of NatureUganda) highlighted NatureUganda’s continued collaboration with the Wetlands Management Department of the Ministry of Water and Environment (Partnership Chair) in promoting wise use of wetlands, their restoration and biodiversity monitoring.

Uganda Wetlands Atlas
Mr. Achilles Byaruhanga (Executive Director, NatureUganda) referring to the Uganda Wetlands Atlas to highlight NatureUganda’s continued collaboration with the Wetlands Management Department of the Ministry of Water and Environment (Partnership Chair) in promoting wise use of wetlands, their restoration and biodiversity monitoring. Copyright: GIZ/Alisa Knoll

Key take-aways from the meeting

  • Regular compliance support needs to be provided to the commercial flower farms to improve environmental and social performance of the commercial flower farms.
  • There is a need to improve information flow between the regulatory bodies and the commercial flower farms
  • Knowledge sharing on best practices among commercial flower farms should be initiated.

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First Partnership Meeting of the Greater Kampala Integrated Flood Resilience Partnership

The Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area, Uganda’s economic powerhouse, is faced with destructive flash floods that pose severe socio-economic challenges to both businesses and residents of Greater Kampala.

Flooding in Industrial Area
Flooding in Kampala Central Industrial Area. Copyrihgt: KCCA/Joan Magayane

To mitigate and adapt to the current flooding challenges, government, private actors, and communities are coming together, to work collaboratively in the Greater Kampala Flood Resilience Partnership, under the Natural Resources Stewardship Programme in Uganda. This multi-stakeholder partnership brings together the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), private sector actors, civil society organisations and other government institutions with the goal to jointly develop and promote blue-green, innovative infrastructure and inclusive solutions for improved urban resilience towards flooding in Greater Kampala. More information on what the partnership aims to achieve.

First partnership meeting in Kampala and virtually

On the 1st of September 2021, the partners kicked-off the partnership in a first meeting, which was held partially online and in person at Royal Suites Hotel, Bugolobi, Kampala. The objective of the meeting was to initiate discussions on the partner interests, partnership opportunities and agreement on the next steps in formalizing the partnership.

First partnership meeting of the Integrated Flood Resilience Partnership Kampala
Attendees of the first partnership meeting of the Greater Kampala Integrated Flood Resilience Partnership at Royal Suites Hotel, Kampala. From upper left corner to bottom right corner: Mr James Kisekka (Team Leader RAIN foundation), Mr Peter Tumuhaise (Sanitation Engineer CWIS, KCCA ), Mr Benard Nsubuga (Technical Officer GIZ NatuReS), Mr. Andrew Onwang (Environment Officer, Britannia Allied Industries Limited), Mr Allan Nkurunziza (Programme Manager CWIS, KCCA), Elena Barth (Advisor, GIZ NatuReS) Mr David Cheptoek , (Senior Water Officer, MWE), Mr. Joseph Kyalimpa (Training and Projects Manager, UMA), Ms Vanessa Tyaba (Technical Advisor GIZ NatuReS)
Copyright: GIZ/Elena Barth

During the meeting, the private sector through Uganda Manufacturers Association and Britannia Allied Industries Limited gave some insight into the flash flood challenge affecting businesses, specifically manufacturing industries. For example, a study conducted in 2019 by UMA under the Water Security Action & Investment Plan Project on water security revealed that out of 469 companies surveyed in Greater Kampala, 47 mentioned that they experienced damaging floods more than twice in every rainy season. Concrete impacts on businesses include: overflowing water ending up in production areas, resulting in damages to production materials, collapse of building infrastructure and halt of production.

Addressing the flooding challenge through a catchment-based approach was presented by the Ministry of Water and Environment, where emphasis was made on consideration of hydrological boundaries (catchment) rather than city administrative boundaries. Innovative models and solutions for flood management were presented by a civil society partner, namely RAIN foundation. Those include blue-green infrastructure solutions such as rain gardens, permeable pavements and bioswales, and case studies of similar implementation in other parts of Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda.

New ideas and solutions for flood mitigation in Kampala

In a brainstorming session, the partners were split up according to sectors (public, private, and civil society) and discussed their strategic interest in the partnership and possible interventions for the following four thematic areas: (A) Policy (B) Blue-green infrastructure solutions and investment (C) Behavioural change & stakeholder empowerment (D) cross cutting thematic areas, or any other thematic area.

Man presenting on a whiteboard
Mr. Joseph Kyalimpa (Training and Projects Manager, UMA) presenting the outcomes of the brainstorm session on the private sector’s strategic interest in the partnership and possible interventions for the four thematic areas. Copyright: GIZ/Elena Barth

The responses across sectors were very similar in the thematic areas which indicated a good start for synergy and collaboration amongst actors.

Moving ahead, partners agreed on next steps in their partnership, such as: Formalizing the partnership and partners’ commitment by submitting a letter of intent; Supporting the preliminary scoping study; Submitting their preferred activities under the partnership for the Partnership Action Plan; To meet monthly during the inception period before the official launch slated for January 2022.

Other partners in attendance included representatives from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, ACTogether and Vivo Energy Uganda.

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Exploring PET plastic waste flows in Greater Kampala

A baseline study conducted under the GKMA PET Plastic Recycling Partnership

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic pollution is on the rise in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA), Uganda’s most populated area. GKMA has experienced rapid urbanisation and population growth, as well as fast economic development, over the last 35 years. As one consequence of this development, PET is used in increasing quantities, largely in packaging of food and beverages.

This generates a significant amount of plastic waste and pollution in Greater Kampala and environs. Poor consumer behaviour such as littering and the creation of illegal dumpsites further accelerate pollution. This results not only in increasing amounts of PET plastic in the environment, but has also negative impacts like degradation of landscapes and blockage of urban canals and rivers. Increased risk of flooding and the emergence of waterborne diseases in stagnant waters are ultimate consequences.

plastic waste in channel in Kampla
PET plastic waste accumulating in a drainage channel in GKMA
Copyright: NatuReS Uganda

Although PET plastic pollution in GKMA being a very visible problem, it has previously never been quantified. The exact amount of PET plastic waste generated, collected, recycled, disposed in landfills, and leaked into the environment in GKMA has so far not been examined. However, such information is crucial for better planning and management of PET plastic waste.

To close this knowledge gap, the GKMA PET plastic waste recycling partnership conducted a baseline study on PET plastic waste flows in GKMA. The study identifies key stakeholders in the PET recycling value chain and compiles the relevant policies and legislations that affect plastic waste management in GKMA. Furthermore, it highlights the main challenges and opportunities for the management of PET waste in GKMA. The findings helped the partners to make informed decisions on priority intervention areas under the partnership. They also suggested practical mechanisms to improve management of this waste stream across the PET plastics recycling value chain.

Key findings on the PET waste flow

  • 8.6 million pieces of pre-form PET bottles are imported into Uganda per day, of which 40% (3.4 million pieces) are commercialized in GKMA every day. This equals an amount of 62.9 tons/day.
  • 57% of the PET plastic waste this generates is collected.
  • Out of this, 17% ends up at gazetted disposal site(s),
  • 35% is transported to recovery facilities, where it is processed for exportation, while
  • 5% is leaked during collection and transportation services.
  • 43% of all PET waste is NOT collected. This corresponds to 9.948 tons of uncollected plastic per year. This faction may end up in drains, land and water bodies.
PET waste flows baseline study in Kampala, Uganda
PET waste flows in GKMA visualized using a Sankey diagram

The informal sector plays a crucial role in recovering PET materials for recycling. In fact, informal waste collectors recover all the PET waste, of which 57% is delivered to formal recyclers, who in turn process it as preparation for exportation.

There is only limited capacity to make new products from PET waste either within Uganda or neighbouring countries in East Africa. Therefore, once the formal recyclers process the PET waste into small flakes, they are packaged and exported to various countries, among which the US, India and Indonesia, for further processing.

PET bottles collected for recycling in Kampala, Uganda
PET bottles are collected and bundled for further recylcling. Yet, there is only limited capacity to make new products from PET waste in Uganda.
Copyright: NatuReS Uganda

Every month, up to 660 tons of flakes PET waste, worth USD 232.654 (USD 2.8 million per year), are exported from GKMA to the international market. This number underlines the importance of the recycling sector for the economy in GKMA and the potential it could unfold if further processing and up-cycling was to be established in the country

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