TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Sep 22 - 28, 2008

Municipal waste management has become a subject to be dealt with a great seriousness and urgency in view of the rapid and uncontrolled growth of urban population in Pakistan. Karachi which is the principal economic hub of the country and generates substantial volume of wastes daily is probably witnessing comparatively an intensive population burst owing to mainly unplanned immigration in the city from across the country. The execution of urban planning which is in its introductory stage presently hits the snags due to this disorganized rural-urban population shift that among other things is worsening the already weak MWM system. One argues that population growth is a blessing in a way that blooms mounds of garbage which if managed skillfully can give way to heavy revenue.

The average growth rate of population of Karachi was 3.49 percent during an interval of census 1981 and 1998. This rate was higher than an average population growth rate in the country of approximately 2.6 percent. High growth rate is warning for city planners and unplanned squatter settlements of migrants in urban jurisdictions lead planning, albeit effective, close near to failure. The major problem arising out of the squatter settlements add burdens to waste generated in the metropolis that has not implemented or designed a proper and economic-linked solid waste management system in so many years. It is clearly understood that if not disposed and composed adequately solid waste causes clogging of drains besides importantly water, air, and soil pollutions.

Reducing pollution drivers from waste not only saves ozonosphere from becoming further damaged, it also develops a source of revenue for the economy. In fact, waste management can become a profitable economic activity which in Karachi only may earn $500 million per annum in next two to three years, and that is so within the prevalent sluggish MWM system, says an enterprising businessman running Karachi-based recycling plant, Shariq Vohra. "Imagine, what would be the revenue size in presence of networked solid waste management and legislative reforms," he says.


He said his single recycling plant recycled 300 tons plastic waste daily through three core process of reducing, recycling, and reusing and exported extraction in form of flakes to abroad after colleting the waste from its six collection points located in Hyderabad, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar; scavengers, small itinerants and kabaris. Flakes are used in making polyester staple fiber. Production of plastic waste is highest in Karachi than any other major waste producing cities like Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Peshawar, and Quetta.

A study suggested that 7000 tons of municipal wastes were daily collected from Karachi by the government. Surely, equal quantity of garbage may have submerged in sewage drains, drinking water hoses and lines. Certainly, this waste included just household waste and not other solid wastes like industrial, health work. Normally, collected municipal wastes are dumped into landfill sites by municipal bodies and burnt in open. The environmental hazardous burning process along with leachate of organic waste cause soil degradation and emit gases such as methane catalyzing global warming. This leachate mingles into water lines to create viral diseases.

According to Shariq Vohra Chief Executive Shazil Pakistan, concept of landfills is around two-century old and can be replaced by modern environment friendly incendiary waste disposals to generate energy. Besides, food and vegetable wastes can be utilized to produce fertilizers and pesticides. The raw materials are biodegradable and compatible to composting. An estimate recorded 100 tons per day such wastes were originated from Karachi's vegetable markets. Moreover, wastes such as metals, papers, card board, rags, glass, bones, animal waste, leaves, grass, and wood are generated in larger volume in the city.

Due to incapacity of MWM system, heap of garbage is disposed improperly, sometimes to upend the atmosphere. In addition to households, hospitals also generate enormous filth like disposable syringes, fetuses, body organs, plastic bottles etc. that either are burnt or thrown into dust bins. Some of these not only emit highly toxic gases, they are also dangerous to human health. In past, there was talk of utilizing hospital wastes in power production in government circle. However, no all-out efforts have been taken in this regard. At least, in government hospitals, which carry on immense medicinal activities and thus generate more volumetric wastes, no such recycling facility is available. In its state of environment report, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency recorded that in Pakistan 250,000 tons wastes were produced in hospitals.

That what impedes establishment of result oriented waste management system in Pakistan generally and in particular in Karachi is, Shairq sums up in single word, "confined legislation". Explaining he says, if people are bound legally to throw their household rubbish in bins and instead of throwing wastes at any place they must use proper disposal methods, municipal waste management would be improved to a desirable level. MWM system is very attractive to private investors and with government support private sector can improvise garbage collection mechanism. He says ministry of commerce is unaware of the revenue potential in waste collection and recycling. Once linked with mainstream economy, this sector will pull up foreign reserves and bring about employment opportunity.

Concept of recycling zone has evolved in developed economies. Pakistan should take advantage of these zones that are established with consideration of cost of transporting wastes to recycling plants, infrastructure availability in the area, and so on and so forth, he told. He said government should facilitate private sector by providing them with lands on specialized rates. Recycling plant requires a spacious covered area. To make waste management systematic, he reiterates, legislative reforms are indispensable. He appreciates CDGK initiation to mull over legislation regarding waste management.