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    Waste management, pollution, inadequate access to sanitation services and poor urban conditions are identified as some of the major challenges to development in the SADC region. In order to address these challenges the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is committed to promoting sound environmental management through pollution control, waste management and environmental education.

    Waste Management is one of the priority issues affecting the SADC Region. The rising quality of life and high rates of resource consumption patterns have had an unintended and negative impact on the urban environment. They have resulted in generation of wastes beyond the handling capacities of the majority of waste management authorities. The majority of SADC cities are now grappling with the problems of high volumes of waste, low capacity to management and the high costs involved in the management. This is further exacerbated by the lack of proper disposal technologies and methodologies, inadequate manpower and equipment. This coupled with poor enforcement results in rampant illegal dumping of domestic and industrial waste that is a common practice. This has had serious health and environmental impacts resulting from littering, generation of foul smell and proliferation of pests and insects that transmit diseases.

    Information about the kinds of wastes and amounts generated in SADC Member States is not routinely collected and reported at present. However, SADC is taking steps to improve understanding about household, industrial, agricultural and e-wastes and the associated challenges they present. The SADC Secretariat is developing a regional Programme on Waste Management which is still being finalised.

    Households

    At the household level, wastes that consist of biodegradable materials, paper, gravel, metal and glass are recoverable, reusable and recyclable. Plastic recycling is increasingly a focus because discarded plastic can become a nuisance, block drains and causes flooding during the rainy season. Blocked drains also result in water stagnation that creates a breeding ground for mosquitos and leads to serious Health Risks such as Malaria. Open-burning of plastics generates toxic fumes further posing health risks.

    The Institute for Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) is taking action to reduce the health and environmental risks associated with waste. One such action is improvements to household waste separation, collection and disposal by 2017. The initiative stems from South Africa’s Waste Act, 59 of 2008 and related Waste Management Strategy standards for waste collection. Waste management facilities will have to be licensed and must appoint waste management officers responsible for abiding by legislation.

    Lack of access to sanitation facilities, especially in urban areas and urban slums, has serious health implications. One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. the Millennium Developement Goals Assessment Report (2012) indicates that only 15% of SADC Member States are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals target on sanitation. In efforts to improve this number and meet the Millennium Development Goals, the SADC Regional Water Supply and Sanitation Programme is in place to facilitate the development of a regional framework for water supply and sanitation. The framework includes institutional strengthening, rationalisation, knowledge management, and monitoring and evaluation systems.

    Industry and Agriculture

    Industry and Agriculture are two sectors that have the potential to use and generate hazardous chemicals. There is generally a lack of awareness on the effects of hazardous chemicals and institutional frameworks for dealing with the sound management of chemicals are underdeveloped. Legislation that bans the release of these wastes into the environment is often in place but governments cannot afford the personnel and analytical equipment to enforce it. Furthermore, there is need for increased worker awareness about personal protective equipment and handling of toxic wastes and agricultural chemicals. Agricultural pollution by farm chemicals, particularly pesticides, contaminates drinking water and affects those who handle the chemicals.

    Good progress is being made. Many African countries are party to the Multilateral Environmental Agreements that foster the environmentally sound use of chemicals in support of sustainable development objectives. The Africa Institute is the Basel and Stockholm Convention Regional Centre for English-speaking African countries and provides training, capacity building, and information exchanges regarding environmentally sound waste and chemical management, including hazardous wastes.

    E-Waste

    Consumer Electronic goods are all-pervasive in society, and the rapid and increasing pace of technological developments means that this equipment becomes obsolete quicker, meaning more and more of this kind of waste is being generated. Furthermore, these goods often include parts that are made from or that generate toxic substances when broken-down or disassembled. This waste is known as E-Waste and it is becoming a growing and increasingly serious problem worldwide. The Southern African Telecommunications Association has drafted Guidelines for e-Waste Disposal. These guidelines allow for identification of various sources of e-waste and prescribe procedures for e-Waste handling. The guidelines also call for the establishment of a SADC e-Waste Recycling Plant that recycles waste in an environmentally sound manner.

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