Rangoon residents left in filth as waste collection system fails

Residents of Thaketa Township in eastern Rangoon have been left without a garbage removal service and they say their health is rapidly deteriorating as a result.

Not only is their own rubbish not being collected, but people have been coming from across Rangoon to dump in the area for the past two years.

Now, as rainy season sets in, the festering trash is blocking drains and creating stagnant pools of filthy water. Mosquitoes are breeding fast, leading to outbreaks of dengue fever in the community. Water-borne diseases such as amoebic dysentery are also rife.

Local resident San San Maw says it is the children who are suffering the most.

“Last week, my daughter was hospitalised for two days when she caught dengue,” she said. “Other children, like her, are falling seriously ill too.

“We’re demanding that the garbage is removed immediately.”

However the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), which is responsible for the city’s waste management, admits that it is only capable of collecting 50 to 60 percent of the city’s refuse.

While blaming changing consumer habits—such as the move towards single-use items such as plastic food containers—and a lack of citizen awareness as to sanitation and the environment, the committee concedes to having no comprehensive plan for waste management. YCDC puts that to a shortage of funds for undertakings such as the purchasing of new landfill sites, equipment, staffing and the installation of communal bins.

That failure essentially became the main driving force in the committee’s push to privatise Rangoon’s garbage collection.

In late May, seven joint-venture companies submitted tenders for garbage collection contracts in the city. The contract winner will be announced in December, and will begin operations in 2015.

However, the residents of Thaketa say they can wait no longer.

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Resident Toe Toe says she is desperately concerned for the health and future of the community.

“We are the ones to suffer,” she says.  “There are a lot of people here who already have heart conditions and diabetes, and their health is getting worse.

“Children can’t even go to school because of the flooding. The school has closed. The whole neighbourhood is under water.”

Many youngsters suffer constantly from diarrhoea, she said, and three were recently hospitalised.

The residents of Thaketa are living in these conditions despite Rangoon property prices soaring, as investors flock to a city gaining increasing significance on the regional stage.

Rangoon is known for its enchanting architecture and leafy streets; however many of its residents see it from a very different perspective.

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