Community-based urban solid waste management : a case study of Suva, Fiji : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University
The rising solid waste generation and the change of solid waste composition to higher volumes of packaging materials have created concerning health and environmental threats in developing cities. Municipal authorities do not possess the necessary capacities to cope with current levels of solid waste generation and its increasing complexity. This often leads to inadequate solid waste services, in particular, in the poorer settlements such as low-income, peri-urban and squatter communities. With this concern in mind, this study attempted to explore effective ways for improving solid waste management in urban developing communities. Using quantitative and qualitative data from three squatter communities in Suva, Fiji, solid waste management was studied in the context of a Pacific Island country. Household interviews, observations and informal walks were carried out in the selected communities. For the purpose of contextual knowledge, semi-structured interviews were conducted with several organisations and authorities concerned with urban development and solid waste management in Suva. This study argues that the usage of unsafe solid waste practices, such as burning, burying and dumping of waste in the approached communities, are a result of an absence of sound solid waste storage and disposal facilities, lack of awareness and knowledge, and the lack of partnerships between the communities and governmental authorities and also between communities and non-governmental organisations in Suva. Furthermore, this study argues that top-down communication caused through hierarchical structures, has created passive communities, which alone cannot manage external and internal pressures, including rising solid waste accumulation. At the same time, strained social structures due to increasingly diverse communities, pressing land issues and the disintegration of traditional networks, within the communities studied, have decreased community cohesiveness and thus the participation in communal activities, such as cleaning campaigns. This study concludes that effective and trustful partnerships between communities and public and private agencies have to be established in order to successfully implement alternative solutions for the provision of solid waste services in urban communities. Considering the increasing heterogeneity and vulnerability of urban communities, affordable and holistic strategies, which address the root cause of rising solid waste problems, are necessary. Policy makers have to put more emphasis on the needs of the urban poor and marginalised communities in order to reduce inequalities and poverty.