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New Partnership to help Kenyans breathe more easily

By Practical Action On 04.03.2024 CitiesNews

A large pile of garbage with birds flying over it.

People highly vulnerable to the effects of open burning of waste in Kenya are set to benefit from a $230k grant awarded to Practical Action.

The funds will be used to stop the open burning of solid waste, a global practice that has catastrophic effects on human health and the environment.  It will improve waste management systems in Kisumu, Kenya.

Practical Action has been awarded the grant as part of a $1.3 million global Project led by Engineering X – an international collaboration founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Lloyd’s Register Foundation. The project will be implemented by a consortium of five organisations over a two-year period.

The projects will achieve the following:

  • Reduce the open burning of solid waste, which is a major contributor to global air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Provide practical solutions and knowledge to local and national governments, helping them plan and take action to reduce open burning of waste and toxic emissions.
  • Raise awareness and increase action in regions like Latin America, Africa, and Asia where the impact of burning municipal solid waste is particularly acute.
  • Focus on equipping relevant bodies with tools and information to implement strategies that reduce toxic emissions and improve waste management infrastructure.
  • Lessons learned from city pilots and ongoing engagement with regional bodies will be used to fine-tune roadmaps for reducing open burning of waste and making them more feasible and sustainable at a regional level.

Lucy Stevens, Practical Action’s Head of Urban services said “Open burning of waste is a serious problem in itself, and a symptom of a failed waste management system.

“We have seen its impacts at local levels in our work with urban low-income communities. Finding lasting solutions requires action at multiple levels which is why this global collaboration is so important.

“Together with our partners, we will develop and test practical solutions, while also being part of regional and global consultations to improve guidance for countries and encourage more finance to flow to this neglected issue.

“We aim to bring about real, people-centred, changes at the city level and chart the way for future progress improving waste management, protecting health, and combatting climate change.”

A large pile of garbage.

Open burning of waste has become a pervasive global practice with severe consequences.

Over two billion people, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, endure the dire effects of polluted air, ground, and water caused by the burning of solid waste.

Kisumu City alone, where the project will be implemented generates up to 252 tons of solid waste daily. This is mainly disposed off by open dumping and burning on the streets and at dumpsites that poses environmental threat and health hazards.

The health implications are alarming, with respiratory infections, immune disorders, reproductive abnormalities, and premature death being direct outcomes of this environmental catastrophe.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said “Despite its catastrophic impact on people’s health and the environment, many people rely on open burning of waste for their livelihoods, and it is important that lasting change is achieved through local, community-focused approaches.

“By leading this new international consortium with the support of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, I hope we can help those communities most affected to benefit from the economic and social opportunities afforded by more integrated and sustainable waste management systems.

“This project is a positive step towards tackling the scourge of open burning and we welcome other partners who could help us build on the results of this work in these regions. We also urge governments, funders, and international organisations to prioritise as a matter of urgency an integrated approach to phasing out open burning worldwide.”

Practical Action have been working in the waste management sector for decades and intends to leverage its extensive expertise in community-led approach to contribute to the project’s success. The funding will enable Practical Action and its partners to spearhead real change in waste management practices around the world.

Professor Desta Mebratu, Africa Project Lead for Engineering X said: “Open burning of waste is a key cause of poor air quality, which is responsible for 1.2 million deaths in Africa every year. If we can phase out this practice it will dramatically improve health outcomes for the local population and protect the most vulnerable, who are disproportionately affected by air pollution.

There is also a huge socioeconomic opportunity for the African waste sector if it can pivot to treat waste as a valuable commodity in a circulate economy that supports decent jobs and livelihoods.

“I am pleased to be leading the development of the Africa Regional Roadmap after a longstanding engagement with Engineering X on this issue. It is very timely following the 2022 AMCEN resolution and the launching of a multi-stakeholder partnership at COP27 to end the open burning of waste in Africa by 2040. We look forward to engaging with all actors and call for more to join this vital work to eliminate open burning.”

The open burning of waste project is financed by UNEP’s Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and implemented by Practical Action. The other members of the consortium implementing the project are: Engineering X, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), UN-Habitat  and International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).

Practical Action’s awarded grant is $229,408.