Friday, October 19, 2012

Meet our street cleaners, who clear 20 tonnes a day

A MATHS lesson from Mr Achilles Byaruhanga, the big cheese at Nature Uganda:
If there are 10,000 marabou storks in Kampala eating up to 2kg of discarded food a day, how much rubbish do they collect from the streets?
It is, of course, drum roll….20 tonnes. Yes, 20 tonnes.
I’m always encouraging reporters and students to ‘draw the story’ to make sure they appreciate the scale of what they are writing about and ensure there is enough happening to make it interesting.
But even I’m struggling with what 20 tonnes of discarded food looks like. All I know is that it’s a lot.
The topic came up after an insightful question from one of our Victoria University students as we quizzed Mr Byaruhanga about Big Birding Day, which launches here in Kampala today.
The ungainly creatures, dubbed ‘Africa’s Ugliest Bird’ by wildlife writer Jon Blanc, flollop around Kampala building their giant nests in trees and scavenging at the many heaps of rubbish that decorate the city.
So rather than being a pest, like London’s pigeons, Mr Byaruhanga says we should view them as unofficial garbage collectors without which we’d all be a lot worse off.
Rubbish here is deemed by many citizens as a collective problem for someone else rather than an individual responsibility. Food, food wrappers, drinks containers, household rubbish, newspapers and even office materials are discarded without a care of where it will end up or who will deal with it.
So, I say thank-you Mr and Mrs Marabou and long may you stalk the highways and byways of Kampala.
They will no doubt be among the 1,000 or so species Nature Uganda hopes will be identified in tomorrow’s Big Birding Day, a 24-hour bird watching contest to see who can spot the most different sorts of birds.
Bird watching is a $20m a year business in Uganda and a series of events this week is designed to help promote to country as a serious birding destination. 

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  1. Anonymous2:36 PM

    A far cry from "The Wheel on the School" methinks

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