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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 18:05

Solid Waste Management in Bolivia

Written by  Isabel de la Parra Leibson

Solid waste management, primarily in the capital cities and some larger municipalities, is realized through municipal waste recollection services. Only 17% of the municipalities have succeeded in implementing the financing of these services through waste recollection tariffs. Nevertheless, the amounts collected through these tariffs only covered between 40% and 60% of the costs. This obligates all the municipalities to subsidize the waste recollection services, usually up to 100% of the total costs (DGIRS, 2011).

The collection of wastes for recycling is realized in an informal manner. The majority of the wastes with recoverable value are collected in containers and sites at the final waste deposition site. The work is realized by waste pickers, who are mainly women and form the echelon of society with the lowest economic incomes. At a national level, it is calculated that approximately 175 tons/day are collected by the waste pickers. Unfortunately the work executed by these people and their contribution to the country’s economy and economic savings is not recognized by the legislation. Laws even penalize these services, prohibiting these types of activities and establishing wastes as property of the municipalities (SGAB-CF, 2008).

The majority of environmental problems occur at the final deposition. Only 38% of wastes are deposited in controlled waste dumps, which are most often located in the capital cities. In 90% of the cases, waste dump sites are uncovered, 7% are controlled waste dumps in operation, and 3% are controlled waste dumps with a remaining life of 1 to 3 years without defined replacement sites. The lack of relocation sites is mostly due to rejection of candidate sites by the population. Part of the principal problems caused by the final deposition is due to the generation of gases and leachates, which don’t receive treatment and leak into the atmosphere and surface and ground-water bodies. These processes, among other factors, cause constant social conflict where populations settle near the waste dumps (DGIRS, 2011).

With respect to the legal and institutional framework regarding solid waste management, few advances have been made. This makes this sector one of the necessities receiving the least attention by authorities and the society in general. The institutional weaknesses or absence, as well as insufficient legal and financial mechanisms have caused a significant retardation in the development of adequate policies. The normative framework is insufficient and outdated in relation to the dynamics of the sector, the necessities of the various stakeholders and of structural changes occurring in the country. In sum, there is a lack of coercive force.

Waste management in Bolivia has become a great challenge, even more so with the new State Political Constitution (approved in 2009) and the “Andrés Ibañez” Framework Law of Autonomy and Decentralization (approved in 2010). These have caused a new organization of the Plurinational State of Bolivia which gives municipalities more freedom in creating their own policies. Finally being able to create their own waste management policies, the municipalities can now create their own solid waste management laws which are adequate for their specific situation (DGIRS, 2011).

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