By Mustapha Jallow
On Thursday, 27 July the country’s busiest market, commonly called Serekunda ‘Sandika’ market,’ was infested with worms (maggots) and flies after big heaps of garbage were dumped at every corner of the market area. According to our reporter, the dumped garbage contains all sorts of rubbish from plastic bags, used children’s diapers, human waste wrapped in plastic containers, etc. The dumped garbage which is a big eyesore to anyone who visits the market, is a daily scene and it has become an unbearable situation that threatens the health of vendors, customers and people living within the vicinity.
A visit to the market on Thursday by this reporter, saw women vendors expressing total dissatisfaction over the huge garbage describing it as their nightmare. The environmental pollution coming from the uncollected garbage poses a big health risk to buyers and sellers.
This reporter could observe the ground beside the dumped garbage, full of worms (maggots) that could be seen scattered within the site.
Vendors can be found selling near the proximity where the dirty water was oozing from; the dumped garbage attracting swarms of flies that land on most of the produces being sold within the area. Anyone who passes by can be seen covering their noses as a result of the stench emanating from the dumped garbage.
One Mrs Fatoumata Saidykhan told this reporter that the authorities responsible for cleanliness are not fulfilling their responsibilities since they have reported their concerns to them on several occasions. Sadykhan said garbage is dumped all over the market generating worms and flies and making it very difficult for customers to buy their products.
‘‘Buyers are now avoiding our vegetables because of this garbage. If it rains you will see worms popping up from everywhere in the dirty water and all over the market and this is a very big concern to us and even the Serekunda clinic that is just nearby,’’ she said.
She said that the NAM for Serrekunda, Halifa Sallah visited the place. “But since he took note of our problems, nothing has been done to satisfy us,’’ Mrs. Saidykhan said.
‘‘Failing to act on this problem would do more harm to us and as well the patients at the hospital. We have no other place to go to because it is here that we get our survival, school fees for our children, pay our rents and other things. This heap of garbage smells terribly but we still come here each and every day, because this is where we work and nowhere else e,’’ she said.
Mrs. Saidykhan added that government ministers are appointed to solve concerns and they should be able to fulfill those promises; that as women, especially those selling at the markets, they suffer a lot from such situations which are risky for their health because they are the ones inhaling the stench on a daily basis.
‘‘I will stop coming to this dirty market ‘Sandika’ and go to the supermarkets which is better and safer for my health and that of my children. Look at the worms and flies all over the ground and in fact flies landing on vegetables. Do you think this will be good for human consumption?’’ a buyer, Binta Sabally said. Binta said she came to buy mangoes but changed her mind as a result of what she has seen at the market.
‘‘This waste has been abandoned here for no reason and the KMC including their market staff cannot say that they have not seen this mess. Look at the proximity of the health center and those patients admitted there. The nurses cannot say that they do not report this to the Ministry of health to take note. Every one working within the premises of this market is responsible for this mess and something must be done about it urgently. The authorities need to visit this market to rescue these people from this health threat,’’ she stated.
Amadou S. Kanteh said that he has been using the market route as a short cut to reach his work area but with the situation of the dumped garbage, he has diverted to avoid the stench and terrible odour.
Kanteh said both past and present governments are not taking the health of people seriously, adding that a market should always look clean to be able to attract more tourists in the country and grow the Gambian economy.
He urged President Barrow to take a week off from his schedule and visit all the main markets within the greater Banjul and see for himself if his government is working or not, since they took office.
This reporter made futile attempts to talk to the market master but was not able to get him.
In response to the market women, the Public Relations Officer of the KMC, Mrs. Fatoumatta Sillah, made some remarks on telephone, when contacted by this reporter. This was what she said: ‘‘I will inform the mayor and other senior members of KMC and we will send our service team to go and collect the garbage soon. We are here but we would not know all.’’
However, the Environment Minister could not be reached for comments when contacted by this reporter.
In his short remarks about waste at Serekunda market, Hon. Halifa Sallah on his first days of being a National Assembly, visited various markets, schools and hospitals to look into their problems. He also visited the ‘Sandika market”.’
He recalled that a lot of rubbish was generated by the vendors during the Koriteh. He said KMC suggested to him that there should be a security officer to stop outsiders dumping waste there.
‘‘I have engaged the KMC and some stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the problem of waste management at the market,’’ he said.
He said to solve the dumping crisis in his constituency, he will sensitize the people especially businessmen on food protection in order for it to last longer and avoid easy spoilage. He also noted that recycling waste materials will also serve as an effective way of reducing the problems pose by waste dumping.
He said the KMC and the Ministry of Regional Government and Lands need to adequately sit and strategize waste management policies in order to alleviate the issues that are related to it especially the waste recycling means.
Pap Mbye, who is part of the market chiefs said their main problem at the said market is lack of a security officer who would be there both day and night to ensure there is no indiscriminate dumping of waste.
‘‘Most of the garbage is dumped near the road. It is not only vendors and store owners that dump rubbish at the market, even the residents of the area but if we have a security who would monitor the area, the heap of garbage would reduce,’’ he said.
He said that Hon. Sallah had visited the market and had discussed with them to see how best to resolve the crisis at the ‘Sandika’.
He called on the authorities, especially KMC to reconstruct the place and to take necessary action or appropriate steps to ensure that no garbage is dumped near the road.
When this reporter returned to the Sandika on Saturday, he found the garbage cleared.