SOLID waste management has become a nightmare in Pakistan. Municipalities are equipped with centuries-old and outdated methods as they lift only 60 per cent of the waste generated in cities.
In the absence of professionalism and proper waste disposal system, most of the garbage lifted from cities is crudely dumped in open spaces. These dumps attract mosquitoes, rats, cockroaches, houseflies, birds as well as stray animals. Such dumps spread all sorts of diseases which badly affect health of the residents of the city.
Karachi, with an estimated population of 20 million, generates around 12,000 tons of waste a day. The city has been experiencing an urban sprawl and industrialisation that is leading to the production of enormous amount of waste.
Owing to the inadequate waste collection and disposal system, much of it goes into drains or burned in open space, causing air pollution, along with environmental degradation. The remaining waste is transported to government-designated landfill sites where it is segregated by scavengers and burned to separate precious metals, bones and other recyclable material, which is later on sold at nifty prices in local markets.
Waste management is of particular importance for mega cities to use urban waste in the most resource recovery and energy-efficient manner considering that landfill is not a sustainable option for waste management in general. It is even less of an option for mega cities where energy demand is high and space for the landfill is limited.
Like the other mega cities of developed countries which are using their municipal solid waste for generation of electricity for inhabitants and other utilities for neighbouring industries, Karachi is demanding the same due to the energy crisis. It is now essential to think of energy recovery and recycling, besides disposal of waste as sustainable solution.
But the situation is outrageous in Karachi. Open dumping and open burning are the usual methods of solid waste disposal which cause environmental degradation and great threats to environmental sustainability in Pakistan.
The government has to work on the development and implementation of a standardised solid waste management system.
Environmental legislation is still not well developed in Pakistan and the existing rules and regulations dealing with solid waste management are inadequate and outdated.
Besides, people and the private sector’s involvement through NGOs could improve the efficiency of solid waste management.
Public awareness should be created at primary level so that future generations know the connection between solid waste and environment.
M. SUHAIL KHUWAJA Karachi