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All paperwork, no solution in solid waste management

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has been involved in a lot of administration and paperwork but nothing concrete has come to the fore with regards to solid waste management in 20 years, workers’ representatives believe.

They argue that the KMC should diagnose the problem and then seek its solution instead of privatising the system “absurdly”.

General Secretary of Municipal Workers Trade Alliance Farid Awan expressed these views while talking to a correspondent in the backdrop of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the KMC and a Turkish company regarding the handling of the management system in the metropolis.

He said the five District Municipal Corporations (DMCs) and KMC itself were equipped with a large fleet of machinery and manpower to handle the management system but if the current arrangements were not sufficient than the authorities must identify the issues.

Currently two landfill sites, Jamchakro (Surjani) and Gonpass (Hub River Road), are almost filled to their capacities and weighbridges at the sites are not functional. There is no reliable figure as to how much municipal solid waste is generated and dumped at the landfill sites.

The defunct City District Government Karachi (CDGK) had been claiming that 9,000 metric tons of garbage is daily generated in the metropolis out of which only 4000 metric tones garbage is dumped at proper landfill sites. The remaining garbage is dumped in natural storm water drains and Nullahs.

Some quantity of the garbage which is shifted to the landfill sites is also purchased by Kumhars, who use it in backing earthly utensils.

The management system has a long history with regards to its inability to privatise as per the requirements of the concerned authorities.

In 1985, the solid waste management departments were setup in the DMCs, on the recommendation of a study conducted by National Engineering Services Pakistan, to collect and dispose of waste in the metropolis.

The Swedish and Japanese government had given vehicles in aid to shift the garbage at proper sites.

First an attempt was made to award the contract of lifting garbage of a few areas of DMC South including areas of Keamari and Gizri. However, this setup could not succeed.

After a while, the job was given to a contractor of the areas of DMC Central like North Nazimabad but this effort also failed.

Another plan was made to lift garbage through tricycle, and for this purpose garbage stations were established but they met failure too.

In 1996, the idea of running a garbage train was introduced when Fahim-uz-Zaman was the administrator of KMC. In this connection, an agreement was signed with the railways to dump the garbage at Dhabiji. A piece of land was purchased at Dhabiji and platforms were made for railways. However, this system could run for only four weeks and the idea was abandoned when inhabitants of Dhabiji protested against it.

In 2002, Local Government Ordinance was introduced and towns came into existence during General Musharraf’s regime. In Karachi, most of the former town administrations had awarded the contract of lifting and dumping garbage to some private parties. However, not much was achieved..

A few years back, the defunct CDGK signed an agreement with a Chinese firm which were to charge $20 per ton to remove and dump the solid waste in Karachi.

For this purpose a municipal tax was levied on the Karachiites to recover the expenses. However, this step also failed completely and the company could do nothing. Another MoU was signed during this period with a Malaysian firm but results were the same.

Handling of solid waste system is the basic responsibility of town administration but the CDGK purchased 200 new vehicles worth millions of rupees to dispose of the garbage. These vehicles are at times used by the town administration on request.

However, due to negligence and unavailability of maintenance around 60 of these vehicles have become useless. They are parked at Gattar Baghicha in an open yard, where they are catching rust.

According to Awan, the collection and disposal of garbage is like a “slow poison” for citizens. There is a lack of will on behalf of the administration.

He said billions of rupees had been spent on in this connection but nothing fruitful could appear on ground. At the time when the two landfill sites had almost been filled there was no place in the surrounding of Karachi to dump garbage, he added.

As a trade union activist it was his prime duty to protect around 12,000 workers whose livelihood was associated with the job, he stressed. For this purpose, the trade unionists would struggle to safeguard the interests of the workers, Awan added.

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