An aesthetically pleasing city

Society & Culture | By Ruth Chatukuta, Communication Designer | 11 January 2014
PHOTO: © Baynham Goredema

Every time I go through the Forbes list of cleanest cities in the world, I come across a common trait. They are mostly aesthetically pleasing. I searched the list in the solitary fear that my city could just be there. Disappointment! Then, I Googled ‘Dirtiest Cities in the World’. Phew! Imagine my relief at learning that Harare was not featured here either. Nevertheless, my euphoria was soon extinguished. Least of all because deep down I knew that my excitement did not emanate from pride. Rather, an error of omission which could be easily corrected by a mere cursory short drive through Harare’s Central Business District. This will disabuse any right thinking individual with any notions of Harare being the “sunshine city” our city fathers always lead outsiders to believe.

After burning the midnight oil (there was no ZESA), pondering deeply about this dilemma it all gradually came to me like a flash of lightning on a stormy day. Plastic! Evil wicked plastic. The sunshine city stood like a lady, beautiful, dignified and clean, until plastic came along. Plastic with its uncanny ability to corrupt has turned the stunning dame into a witch-like monstrosity with strings of plastic that perform an inappropriate dance off her body in the cool breeze. The thing about plastic is that it is affordable and durable, little wonder why it is popular with shoppers. However, most times we really do not think of the harmful effect that plastic has on the landscape’s aesthetics. Plastic can release harmful chemicals into the soil, which seeps into the ground and contaminate water sources.

As I pondered some more, I had an epiphany over how the plastic found its way into the streets, pavements and stretches of land in the city. My epiphany revealed to me that people, are the reason why our city is not aesthetically pleasing. We throw litter everywhere, even next to the bin. We just toss plastic all over the city like it’s nothing. Another interesting thing is that we don’t throw plastic all over our houses. I mean, who does that; it’s so unclean right? But straight after we try to be super clean human detergents in our houses, we go and do the exact opposite on the street. We just throw litter everywhere like it is going to dump itself in the bin, and then we have the nerve to complain that the city does not look beautiful anymore?

But, what is the way forward? How does Harare become the aesthetically pleasing city? First there needs to be a shift in the way people think. People need to learn to be responsible citizens, not spectators who expect the next man to do the job for them. An AIDS campaign aptly captured the idea: it begins with you. There needs to be education on why littering plastic is a bad thing. Singapore made sure of that, so littering is literally against the law. The city fathers need to enforce by-laws concerning the disposal of plastic with regards to product manufacturers and service providers. What about recycling? Sweden is currently importing trash from other European countries which is recycled to generate energy. Yes, they are currently facing trash shortages (First World problems). Japan has a long list of laws concerning recycling and unsurprisingly they have some of the cleanest and most aesthetically pleasing cities in the world.

That is the way to get an aesthetically pleasing city. A city that takes your breath away. The city that people are always proud to keep clean and habitable. It’s not about how much landscape design is done, because plastic defaces that. It’s not about the city art or the sculptures. It is not about the brilliant architecture. It’s about cleanliness and citizens taking responsibility for our city. It is up to us Hararians to make our city aesthetically pleasing. So for the love of all things good in this world, you, yes you, please stop littering my city!