The burned remains of the Bujumbura Central Market are still there, almost two years after the fire. The bad smell poses a very serious health risk. The Ministry of Environment, Water and Urbanism plans to remove the waste to a proper place, although it is unclear when.-Diane Uwimana
On a Sunday morning in January 2013, a fire broke out in the Bujumbura Central Market. Tears and cries were heard. Those who reached their place of work in time, rescued their goods by placing them outside the market area. About 2500 stands were savagely burnt. Nothing was preserved.
Since the accident, all commercial activities are blocked in Bujumbura central, which is especially tough for those traders and consumers whose daily life depend on the central market. Even shops, offices and banks that were near the market, were temporarily closed. Security is tight and no one is allowed to get in. Around the market, roadblocks and sheets have been placed to stop people from having access.
After the tragic incident, some of the vendors, specifically female sellers of fruits and vegetables searched for a new place to sell their goods and try to start afresh. As it was forbidden to stay in the vicinity of the market, they were sometimes chased away by police security.
A year and a half after the fire, the remains of the market are left untouched. People that work in the area around the former Bujumbura Central Market, especially in the grocery market, note that a bad smell lingers.
“We can’t do anything. We smell it but we can’t leave this place. We must work hard to survive and feed our family”, says one vendor at the market. She goes on saying that they fear about being infected with diseases caused by the unhygienic wasteland.
“The Ministry of Environment is aware of the situation”
According to Remy Ndayishimiye, the Spokesman of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Urbanism, BIF 40 billion is available thanks to the Government of the Netherlands to create garbage dumps in order to facilitate the waste removal. “Sites and surveys are identified and conducted to improve the project. Muzinda (in Bubanza Province), Ngozi and Gitega provinces are chosen to place and treat the waste. Waste from the Former Bujumbura Central Market will be deposited at the Muzinda area”, Ndayishimiye points out.
Ndayishimiye further mentions that the Ministry of Environment, Water and Urbanism and the Ministry of Public Health have begun to disinfect the area to protect the people working around the locality.
“Before, we couldn’t remove the waste because we didn’t have all the necessary tools to transform and treat it properly”, the spokesman adds.
He also indicates that the Ministry doesn’t know exactly when it will start this project: “What is important at the moment is that different steps are taken in order to secure the place.”
Policemen working around the market area indicate that inside the former market waste is dropped by thieves who try to steal the remaining produce and equipment of the market. “While walking inside the former market we found that thieves confuse the place with a human toilet”, says a policeman at the Central Market Management Society (SOGEMAC).