Pakistan’s Waste Management System: What’s To Be Proud Of?
ASIA SERIES : PART 6
The condition of waste management system from the collection of waste to its proper disposal is, to put it mildly, pathetic in Pakistan. Only 50% of solid waste quantities generated are collected by government services. However, for cities to be clean, at least 70% of these quantities should be collected.
A number of municipalities have deployed sweepers for waste collection but the service is reported to be irregular and limited to prominent administrative or commercial areas. Citizens are not provided with enough rubbish bins. In fact, those bins can only be found along the main roads. Those who live further away prefer not to take the trouble: the majority of home waste ends up being thrown away on empty plots.
According to Riffat Aziz, 35, who lives in the suburbs of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, “The nearest garbage can to my house is 8 km away. It takes a lot of effort and time to dispose of our home waste at the can, so I have found an easy way out. ” On being asked what the shortcut is, she hesitantly responded: “There is an empty plot near my house. I understand it is wrong, but I have five mouths to feed. I don’t have time to throw off the waste at the can.”
Much of the uncollected waste ultimately finds its way into empty plots, farming land, pits and ponds. It creates an ideal environment for flies and mosquitoes to dwell on and is not only harmful for the people living in that area, but also for plants and animals.
Over the last few decades, migration from rural to urban areas has added to the overburdening of urban infrastructure and there has been a swift decline in the quality of urban life and availability of resources. Katchi abadis, or squatter settlements, have rapidly emerged; they now account for 35-50% of the total urban population. According to Zohaib Baloch, Pakistan Administrative Service’s assistant commissioner, “Since the beginning of urbanisation, the generation of waste has increased tremendously. And, unfortunately, the municipal institutes do not have adequate resources to meet the needs of increasing urban population.”
Presently Pakistan lacks a proper waste management system. It is ineffective as a whole as it collects only 50% of solid waste quantities generated. Moreover, there is no distinction between different forms of waste. Industrial waste is treated as ordinary waste and since majority of the solid waste is handled manually, this puts the health of sweepers and sanitary workers in danger.
Tehsil (Town) Municipal Administration is responsible for the collection and disposal of solid waste. However, due to lack of adequate funds, no proper implementation of rules and regulations, and lack of awareness and sense of responsibility among the citizens, the scale of this problem is beyond the ability of any municipal government.
According to Dr Mirza Arshad Ali Beg, former director of Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR), “The highly mismanaged municipal solid waste disposal system in Pakistan cannot be attributed to the absence of an appropriate technology for disposal but to the fact that the system has a lot of responsibility but no authority.” The official expressed that the local bodies are not supplied with sufficient funds to resolve this issue.
The need of the hour is to revise the solid waste management law in Pakistan. The responsibilities of citizens, enterprises and the government must be clearly defined. After revision of legislature, the government must ensure proper monitoring, control and evaluation. Citizens, no matter how influential, should be punished for the violation of law and factories should be held accountable for the industrial waste they generate.
Most importantly, an active participation of all the stakeholders is required to resolve this issue.
All pictures by the author.