By: Kim Lemme
Did you know Rwanda has no facility to treat sludge and wastewater? In the WHOLE country? Even when you flush your toilet at the fancy Hotel des Mille Collines, it is captured in a septic tank that has no safe place to ultimately be emptied and treated.
So where does all the human waste go?
Enter “Shit Mountain” a 15 mile drive from Kigali’s city center, far enough away that most people don’t have to think about it, yet accessible enough that hotels and other septic tank emptiers can get there.
Rwandans—like all people—like to be separated from their waste without having to think about it, and certainly without seeing it. Shit Mountain is filled with the stench of rotting trash and open, untreated sludge, as well as the sound of the trucks and people scavenging the landfill. In addition to the many trash lorries, about 15 tanker trucks full of sludge arrive daily to this pit. The three-chamber, open pit began in May 2012 (the earlier open pit filled up), and already, the first chamber (20 feet deep) is nearly at capacity. That’s only seven months of use! The first pit is connected to the second and third chambers (which are 10 and five feet deep respectively) by a small pipe. Near this “facility” are many homes and communities, including several just downhill from the pit. This is a short-term, hazard-filled solution to the country’s lack of waste treatment. Through Water For People’s work kick-starting sanitation service delivery businesses in Kigali, we realized waste treatment is a huge link in the sanitation supply chain that is completely missing in Rwanda. This market system analysis is a part of the work that is done in the sanitation as a business program. In partnership with the Kigali City Council, Boundless Consulting ( our Business Development Services provider), and Borda, Water For People is supporting the development of a DEWATS facility appropriate for use in Kigali. The city wants to erase this embarrassment from the books and Water For People wants to see a well-functioning supply chain of sanitation services that are long lasting. The challenge will be complementing Water For People’s focus on providing a dumping area for small-scale gulping businesses, with the City Council’s focus on large-scale tanker trucks that carry sludge from the hotels and offices in Kigali. For successful sanitation market development it will be necessary to find a balance to make it work for all and ultimately shut down Shit Mountain.