Shamelessness Hurts the Environment

As I was walking along the street with my father last Sunday afternoon, we came across a rather well-off neighbour of ours. He was just a few blocks away from his home and yet decided to park his car and urinate on the street.

We were stunned by his action, and we would be surprised even more. He came straight to us and shook my father by the hands. I refused to do as such, which irritated our neighbour. He became defensive and started preaching me about how I am taking hygiene out of proportion.

This is not an isolated incident in Ethiopia, where public urination or open defecation are rarely known to make one a social pariah. People usually consider urination in public places nothing more than a mild nuisance. This is one of the obstacles of the path to modern Ethiopia.

Such acts, coupled with littering, are as ordinary as walking down a street. Such ecologically hazardous behaviours further degrade the already polluted environment. It is unbearable to pass some of our streets in Addis Abeba, supposedly the political capital of Africa is no different to the phenomenon.

Tourist sites, such as the Semien Mountains, are not faring better. Trash and human waste are visible almost everywhere one goes. This not only damages the environment and is harmful to humans but also hurts the wild animals that unfortunately do not discriminate what they eat as much we do.

In Addis Abeba, the daily waste generation of the city is over a quarter of kilogram a person, according to the Addis Ababa Sanitation, Beautification & Park’s Development Agency. Out of this, over 70pc of the solid waste is collected, of which about 90pc is landfilled, and the rest recycled or composted. Of the amount that is landfilled, over 17pc is disposed on streets, ditches and rivers affecting society.

Trash and debris often find themselves in street gutters, clogging flood drains. The pollutants from trash and other waste also find their way into the environment further increasing exposure to hazards.

The more such hazards are neglected, we will continue to live unhealthily. And the need to improve the environment and make the streets cleaner ought to nurture community spirit.

It has been the case that previous means of fighting such ills has been to impose financial penalties. None of this succeeded though as they either only managed to pause the act, or merely make people conscious of who is watching. Society fell back into old impulses in the absence of those giving penalties.

The current generation has not been much different here. Advancements in the economy have not made us mindful of such acts to the point that is acceptable. Lack of consequences today and our mindset has made us resigned to seeing our environments degraded.

Ethiopia is not short of a legal system and policies to protect the environment. It has also signed international conventions aiming to make the environment healthier. The broad environmental policy of Ethiopia is specified at the supreme law of the land, guaranteeing the fundamental right to live in a clean and healthy environment.

Our Constitution explicitly recognises the right to live in a clean and healthy environment. Execution of the laws though lies in creating an exemplary influence rather than dictation.

Naming and shaming is a potent agent of change. However, it is not a permanent means of cultivating beneficial solutions to address problems. To drastically reduce pollutants, the public’s consciousness of it needs to be increased, and the communities must understand that a clean ecosystem benefits all. Such awareness creation programs ought to also show how detrimental it could be to steal portable restrooms and dustbins.

The government ought to likewise be able to provide such public utilities as profusely as possible, especially in areas of the city that are densely populated such as Piazza. It is impractical to expect change otherwise.

If individuals learn that adopting the clean environment mindset is to their benefit, then there is no way to expect that we will not have healthier lives. The country needs to develop the ability to take charge of the problem, considering all the necessary action to get back on course with a clean environment.

It is quite clear that improvements like this can mean a major progress for a country that hosts the headquarters of the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Collaborative initiatives can bring the desired improvement, allowing everyone to enjoy a hygienic ecosystem.


By Eden Sahle
Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied Law and International Economic Law. She can be reached at

Published on Apr 28,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 939]



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