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TOPIC: Sewer Overflows in the urban setup

Sewer Overflows in the urban setup 01 Nov 2012 15:29 #2571

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Neglected Sewer over flows in the urban area causes spread of more pathogens than open defecation

On October,29, 2012 at around 07:50 hours, I was listening to Radio Simba (Fm 97.3) morning show and heard one of the radio presenters decrying the sewer over flow along one of the streets in Kampala City ( Gaddafi Street). He was calling upon National Water and Sewerage Corporation to come to the rescue of the people; he continued to say that this overflow has been neglected for more than a week.

Although the reporter had that to say, business on this street was going on as usual with no one advocating for an immediate solution.

It is common in Kampala to have such scenarios and about two weeks ago our organization (CAGIEA) submitted an article on sewer overflows in the urban areas to one of the News Paper publication house but it has never been published, probably it was not considered. We shall also publish it in our coming volume of the East Africa Public Toilets Guide. This article was done by our Systems Development Manager.

Sewer overflows are not just filthy but also cause a wide spread of pathogens. Think about it this way;
1. Untreated sewer flows through various premises including parks, shops, and markets, on the streets.
2. There are a number of activities taking place along the city streets including fresh fruit and cooked food vending.
3. Moving vehicles splash sewer on to the road side, and this lands onto food items, vendors of these items including news papers and pedestrians.
4. Pedestrians’ stepping into the flowing sewer and part of it remains on the shoes. This may be left on the floor at home, offices, and other public places. Floor cleaners use bear hands and may not use detergents and so they get into contact with pathogens. Shoe cleaners at home and the commercial shoe shiners also get into contact with pathogens through this process.
5. Part of the sewer get wedged onto the vehicle bodies and tyres; 1) the drivers/riders get into contact with pathogens by touching the dirty vehicle body, 2) vehicles carry the wedged sewer into home garage home cleaners get into contact with pathogens while cleaning the car and garage, some motorcyclist store their bikes within the front-rooms) 3) at the vehicle washing bay the vehicle cleaners get into contact with pathogens on the vehicle bodies.
6. Even after fixing the overflow the dust in the areas that were covered by the running sewer will have dust have been contaminated with pathogens and this effect goes on for some time.
Below is my ordeal in connection with sewer overflow;
One fateful day in March 2012, I was moving through Kampala city when I came across a source of over flow which was going through various premises; I wanted to test the hygiene around that place so I entered into a food kiosk near that place. I found a young girl mopping the flow using pieces of cloth with bare hands. Before I could make my order a young man worked in and asked the lady to quickly serve him as he was in hurry. The lady abandoned the cleaning, wiped her hands clean with a small towel which was on top of a pile of table plates which were on a table in the corner of the room (later on I discovered that it is this same towel she was using to wipe the eating utensils) then she went to the kitchen and served the waiting customer. I then ordered for a soda but to my surprise the lady wanted to wipe the soda bottle with the same towel she used to wipe her hands so in order to avoid the possibility of pathogen transfer from the towel to the bottle I convincingly stopped her to wipe the soda bottle.

Here we see man as the main vector, note that there are even flies that are vectors as well, so you can imagine the magnitude of contamination and the resultant infections if the overflow is neglected for a week in the any public place. We need to sensitize the masses on the impact of urban sewer overflows. The community should always come up to fight it whenever it happens by either engaging the health inspectors, property owners, environment police and any other stakeholders so that the overflow is dealt with immediately.

By Deo
Technical Director
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