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Combating garbage menace in Dhaka city

Alaul Alam, Guest Writer |
Update: 2021-08-16 13:19:41
Combating garbage menace in Dhaka city Alaul Alam

In the urban areas of Bangladesh garbage management has been a constant challenge over the years. Especially Dhaka city is bearing the most brunt of it due to the population overburden compared with its areas.  Waste from households, industries, institutions, commercial areas and many more sources are discarded by the city people every day. The more the people are increasing in the city, the more the garbage is piled up.

It is true that city people have become aware of making the city cleaner but how far they have resisted themselves from throwing waste on the roads, by the rivers and lanes of the adjacent living places is still a debate? 

Different sources report that currently urban areas in the country produce 30,000 tons of garbage every day. Dhaka city produces one third of the total garbage. Human waste and food waste make up 80 per cent of the garbage in the city. Compared with the records of the past ten years the garbage menace has increased manifolds taking a devastation.

Apart from food and human waste, plastic waste has turned upsetting across the city. The recent report estimates that Dhaka city produces 646 tons of plastic every day and in the last twenty years the amount of plastic garbage has increased dramatically. In case of the urban areas across the country it is estimated that 0.8 million tons of plastic waste are generated every year of which about 36 per cent is recycled while 39 per cent is landfilled and the rest amount leaked the environment. 

During the pandemic the use of plastic produces has been estimated more than the double of the typical time. According to a recent survey conducted by Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), more than 15000 tons of plastic waste including PPE and other hazardous medical waste are generated monthly across the country but the management of these plastic wastes are not satisfactory.  

Over the years waste management in Dhaka city runs by adopting traditional approaches. Through community management the waste collectors collect waste from house to house. The collectors are paid a small amount of money from every house and shop keeper for bringing waste and dumping those in the garbage bins. 

The city corporations’ garbage-carrying trucks collect the piled up garbage from bins and take to the landfills. The same way the garbage from hospitals and clinics is collected. The sharp and non-sharp garbage are collected in separate containers and carried to landfills for disposal. Prism Bangladesh Foundation has extended their cooperation to collect medical waste from different locations and carry these to the landfills for further management. 

It is evident from different sources that waste collection situation is not satisfactory as a huge amount of every day waste remains uncollected. Truly, we cannot solely blame the city corporations in this regard. The indifference of the mass public is somehow responsible. One of the glaring example is that a few years ago both of the city corporations installed around 6000 waste bins across the city. The question is how far the project was successful? That project did not see any success due to people’s indifference to use the bins, rather instead of that, they kept throwing waste on the streets and footpaths. Not only that, many bins were stolen.  

However, it is obvious that the uncollected waste not only pollutes air and water but has severe impacts on the local environment. Things get tougher when a huge quantities of solid waste which are non-biodegradable end up in the drainage system causing water clogging after every rain. In most cases plastic garbage is causing havocs to humans, animals and plants through toxicities due to its non- biodegradable existence in soil. 

Again time has come to ponder over the issue; are landfills the ultimate solution to waste management in Dhaka city? In many cases, the answer may be negative. Two landfills located at Aminbazar and Matuail are exposing a huge amount of harmful gases which is a great threat for human beings and other living spices in the adjacent areas apart from polluting the overall environment. 

Not only that, these landfills are not enough to tackle the heavy load of trashes in the city. One thing is more important that is merely piling up the garbage in these landfills enough to ensure the proper management and disposal of the garbage? It cannot be. Taking scientific strategies to reduce, reuse and recycle is a crying need of the day to combat the unprecedented garbage threat. 

Two Mayors in Dhaka city have pledged to make the city greener, livable and pollution free. Certainly, they have made some success in this regard but how far they have eliminated pollution and strengthened the garbage management is still a question? If the garbage management was well organized, we could not have seen the threat of water clogging in the city. In this connection the City Corporation and WASA blame each other. But they cannot deny their responsibilities. 

However, it is laudable that many strategies have been taken over the years to combat garbage menace in Dhaka city. Effective studies have been conducted to find out the proper solution of the city garbage. Both city corporations have taken many time-centric initiatives in collaboration with international donor agencies and the Local Government Division. Amid many initiatives, one of the biggest one is to process solid waste using modern methods. 

Almost 10 years back two city corporations took a project to implement the 3R strategy -- reduce, reuse and recycle for waste management in the capital. The aim of the project is to reduce waste in a bid to reduce the garbage burden of the city dwellers. Again, it is supposed to ensure reusing and recycling resources. It can contribute to reducing environmental risk we face every day in the city. Not only that, it can eliminate the disposal of waste into open dumps, rivers and deltas. Obviously, this was a worth initiative if it would have been implemented. But the authority have not been able to bring the 3R strategy into reality though many years passed. 

To this end, there is no alternative to introduce modern initiatives to save the city dwellers from garbage menace. The city inhabitants cannot also avert their responsibilities in this regard. 

Writer: Alaul Alam teaches at Prime University. He is also research scholar at the IBS. Email: [email protected]

BDST: 1320 HRS, AUG 16, 2021

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