Mountains of rubbish take over Gabon's capital
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The streets of Libreville, the capital of Gabon, look more like a rubbish tip because the only company in charge of garbage collection is struggling to clear the waste. On top of leaving a nauseating smell across the city, this phenomenon has created a thriving breeding ground for disease.
This image shows a pile of rubbish on a street in the residential area of Ambowé. Photo taken by our Observer Marc Ona Essangui.
The streets of Gabon’s capital Libreville look like a rubbish dump. The issue being that the company in charge of garbage collection is struggling to clear the waste. On top of leaving a nauseating smell across the city, this phenomenon has created a breeding ground for disease.
For several weeks now, Sovog, the company in charge of collecting general waste in Gabon, has been the subject of a lot of talk in Libreville. This company, which has held an exclusive contract to collect general and household rubbish in the Gabonese city since 2002, has attracted attention for its inability to carry out this task.
When contacted by FRANCE 24 on October 16th, Sovog’s management stated that: “the rubbish problem had been definitively solved last weekend.” “All these images of rubbish piles that the local press is feasting on were taken in the past,” Franck Gibaud, the deputy director general of Sovog, announced solemnly. “The situation deteriorated over the past few days because of the insensitive behaviour of some companies – medium and large supermarkets, for example. Instead of paying private companies to take their garbage to the rubbish tip, they prefer to leave them at Sovog’s collection points, which are normally reserved for household rubbish.”
However, 48 hours after everything was supposed to be “back in order”, our Observer in Libreville, Marc Ona Essangui, took these images, providing proof that the streets of the capital continue to be swamped with rubbish. The photos and the videos shown here show heaps of garbage strewn along the streets, sometimes in the vicinity of schools.
These images show a pile of rubbish on a street in the residential area of Ambowé, Libreville. Video posted on YouTube by Marc Ona Essangui.
These images show a pile of rubbish near a school in the outer suburb of Nzeng-Ayong, Libreville. Video posted on YouTube by Marc Ona Essangui.
There is only one public rubbish dump in Libreville, in the suburb of Mindoubé. Although it reached its capacity several years ago, the dump continues to take in the incessant flow of garbage. To put a stop to this, Sovog has called on the government to build a rubbish treatment plant nearby. This request has so far gone unanswered.
"Such rubbish dumps allow rats and mosquitoes that spread serious illnesses to thrive"
Marc Ona Essangui, 50, is the executive secretary of an environmental Non-Governmental Organisation. He lives in Libreville.
As we speak, the suburbs of Libreville have been submerged by rubbish. Even though the situation in the outer suburb of Nzeng-Ayong is particularly catastrophic, the residential areas haven’t been spared. In Ambowé, where I live, mountains of waste are rotting away right in front of beautiful houses.
It is more than just visual pollution. Such rubbish dumps allow rats and mosquitoes that spread serious illnesses to thrive. When it rains, like it is now, it’s even worse. The rainwater stagnates because the sewers are blocked by rubbish. Therefore, mosquitoes thrive and lay larvae, exacerbating the risk of malaria. Furthermore, the decomposing waste produces an unbearable smell as well as irritant vapours, which could trigger allergic reactions, even pneumonia.
“I don’t understand why the rubbish collection business is not open to competition”
Libreville is a small city when compared to Dakar or Abidjan. Here there are only 700,000 residents. Therefore it’s not normal to fail to manage this problem properly. To govern is to plan for the future. A rubbish tip can’t work without a rubbish treatment plant. Therefore, here, we collect garbage but we don’t treat it.
I don’t understand why the rubbish collection business is not open to outside competition. Sovog holds a monopoly but it only does half the work. Where can’t we call in another company that deals exclusively with treating rubbish to work alongside Sovog?”
General waste overflowing from the collection banks. Photo taken in Libreville by Douglas Ntoutoumé, another Observer.
A pile of rubbish on a Libreville street after heavy rain. Photo taken by Douglas Ntoutoumé.