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Waste Management in East Timor


Jose Mestre Water and Sanitation Unit, ETTA


The Waste Management System is one of the major issues for sustainable development in East Timor.  This presentation will touch on several topics including; the general condition of waste management after the referendum, the current state and effects of waste management; the steps in the waste management process; and programs that need to be implemented.



The referendum on the 30th of August 1999 was followed by an explosion of violence that resulted in widespread destruction and burning, and wholesale looting of possessions belonging to both individuals and the state. At that moment, all government activities serving the people ceased to function, especially in the area of waste management. There has been a bad situation from that time until now in East Timor, due to the piles of rubbish everywhere. The type of rubbish that is produced by society is mainly the residue from burning waste.  There is no management of waste, and no waste removal. This causes unhealthy environmental conditions, both in the bustling centre of the city, and on the outskirts of the city. The lack of waste management services is one of the realities in East Timor today.


The current waste management situation

East Timor has a village characteristic even in the centre of the city, so that the majority of rubbish is leaves. Such waste is generally thrown into people’s backyards and burnt, a less than desirable situation that causes health problems. Leftover food scraps are fed to domestic animals, and leftover food that cannot be fed to animals is buried in the garden or burned along with other rubbish.

One issue requiring attention now in East Timor is the large temporary population of international workers who produce rubbish from consumption of imported goods.

It can be concluded that the general situation in East Timor now demands immediate, short term solutions, both in terms of identifying an institution as the responsible regulator of rubbish, and also in creating a flow of information in order to inform society, so that society also takes a role in waste management.



The waste management situation in East Timor means that people are directly affected in terms of both environmental and individual health. There are several environmental effects that we are now being experienced, especially in Dili, including;


· Air pollution, resulting from rotting rubbish,

· Flooding resulting from drains that have been blocked by rubbish, and

· Rubbish becomes the breeding place of disease vectors; flies, mice and cockroaches.


Such environmental problems can result in spread of diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid, gastroenteritis, dengue fever, and malaria.


The Waste Management System

If viewed from a viewpoint of technical operations, waste management comprises each step from the provision of storage facilities, to the final disposal of waste. Waste operations must be integrated, because each process cannot stand on its own - each influences the other.


Programs that needs to be implemented


Long term program

In the long term, facilities need to be developed to ensure environmental health.  A rubbish division system (daur ulang) needs to be introduced, to reduce the amount of rubbish, and a community inclusive waste management program should be developed.  These requirements can be met by education and capacity building for the general community, and by the development of laws and regulations for waste management in East Timor.



Short term Program

1)      Implement a clear organisational structure for managing rubbish in each area.

2)      Organise training courses for technical and administrative staff.

3)      Organise a pilot study in order to define and plan implementable projects.

4)      Create projects for:

· An environmental cleanliness system;

· A waste storage system;

· A system for the collection and transport of waste;

· A system for the management of final disposal areas.