Chris Anaekwe is a graduate of the University of Nigeria in Nsukka which has organized an impressive clean up in his hometown, Onitsha (Nigeria), to raise awareness about waste disposal in the city.
It is hard to believe that in a city like Onitsha rubbish containers are a rare thing. What do you do with the waste that you generate? Well, in some African cities it is easy. If there is no place or whatsoever for waste disposal, then it goes to either dump refuse along streets and drainages or engage in open burning practice.
“We lack any containers in our streets for waste disposal. These are only available in government restricted areas”, says Chris. He has got so frustrated with the Government’s inaction that he decided to take things into his own hands. So he and the local boys in his neighborhood organized a massive clean up of their street. The pictures speak for themselves. The amount of waste that they have collected is just impressive. “It is not only about cleaning. We wanted to educate people on the importance of keeping the environment clean”, says Chris.
To me Chris is a real ‘everyday hero’ who needs any available kind of support. Waste disposal in African cities has remained a big challenge over the years with indiscriminate dumping of refuse in available spaces especially markets, drainages and open space in residential areas. However, Chris seems to be more conscious about the refuse problem and its consequences on the environment. He is an inspiring person who wants to raise awareness among his neighbours.
He hoped the exercise had shown his neighbours they have some role to play in keeping their city clean. Waste disposal on the streets has become such a huge problem in Onitsha, one of the world’s most polluted cities, that he had been “inspired to do something” and lead by example. “I wanted the kids to be the ones to clean up. I believe it will go a long way to teach them a lesson: that they are the protectors of their own environment. We need to help ourselves. We must not wait for the government”, says Chris.
He also described to me how people use the river for waste disposal. “If they knew the implications that waste disposal will have on their own health and wellbeing, they would not do it”. Even if it is a difficult and long-term task, he thinks waste management should start by changing the habits of the populace.
He is very open and he would welcome any kind of solution to raise awareness that a clean street is in the interest of everybody and it should stay this way.