Thinking about the tragedy that struck our city, I cannot help but wonder how all of us, the entire city, contributed to all of this happening.
Let us have an honest conversation. How many of us ever thought about where our trash was going prior to all of this? Or what impact our trash has on people’s lives? Just as we do with the trash we have thrown into a garbage can, we do not think about the trash and what happens to it after it leaves our sight. So far as we are concerned, we have rid ourselves of it and it is no longer our problem, until we find out that it actually really is.
The lives of 113 people, and counting, have been lost, and those of their families and loved ones have been forever changed. Stories of entire families buried in trash, mothers burying their children, husbands burying their wives and daughters are heart wrenching. What can we do?
The response from Addis Ababa dwellers has been quite tremendous. People have rallied around their fellow Addis Ababans who have lost everything from their families to their homes. They are providing all types of donations. There has also been a lot of outrage, mostly directed at those responsible for the waste management in the city, and rightly so. This incident has in fact caused Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn to announce that there will be an inquiry into the matter.
I honestly hope that this inquiry will expose the mishandling and lack of responsibility of those in the government whose responsibilities was to manage the city’s waste. But I fear that this process will not be swift and by the time any report of such inquiry comes out, our collective anger would have faded.
In addition to all of this, what I believe we should really do is self-evaluation for each and every one of us in terms of how much trash we all produce. How much of our trash is biodegradable, how much of it is not and what impact this has. We should also ask ourselves what the impact of having so many plastic bottles for water and soda is on the environment. As much as we are seeking accountability from government, as we should, we all have to hold ourselves accountable to and create consciousness about our own waste and how we can minimize it.
All of the outrage, anger and talk about this unfortunate event will pass. It will fade from our memories and we will move on the “next thing” that causes anger and outrage. It may sound insensitive, but that is the truth. Our attention span is so small that we, including the media, do not spend more than a short few days, at most weeks, talking about something that affects people’s entire lives. So, what should we do?
While we have the momentum, it is important that we seek to develop a sustainable solution. Where will we dump our trash? Since the day that tragedy struck in Koshe, trash has been accumulating and it has to go somewhere. How are we going to make sure that the next place we dump it, does not cause another tragedy? One thing we can count on is that there will always be trash, at least for the next couple of decades and how we change our management of it based of off what has happened at Koshe is going to be the true testament to how ready and willing we are to learn from our mistakes, and most importantly how much we value the lives lost.