KARACHI, once called the ‘city of lights’, has now become the ‘city of garbage’. Due to rapid urbanisation, the population of Karachi has increased 17-fold over the last six decades. In many areas of different administrative units in Karachi, we can observe municipal solid waste (MSW) lying all over the place. Owing to the mismanagement of this municipal waste, epidemics keep breaking from time to time, affecting people’s health.
In 2014, the Sindh Assembly passed Solid Waste Management Act. The objective was to improve coordination and to employ a third-party contractor. In the east and south districts of Karachi, two private contractors were given the task to manage garbage disposal.
No visible changes have been observed due to these steps. People’s lives are threatened due to these piles of garbage on the roads. The disposal sites of waste are open lands, dumping sites, partial landfill sites or sanitary landfills.
Overpopulation, industrialisation, lack of proactive and fossil fuel policies are the major causes of high generation of MSW. Lack of planning and accelerated rate of urbanisation is making the situation worse.
Along with the MSW mismanagement, shortages of electricity are haunting the lives of citizens of Karachi. The significant shortfall in electricity is due to dependence on fossil fuel. As the domestic sector is the biggest consumer of electricity, the shortage has a severe effect on the sector. The energy consumption by the domestic sector has increased drastically in recent years because of high population growth, but the supplies are limited. This results in huge demand-supply gap of electricity.
The electricity shortages and considerable increase in price are making life of people miserable. Many areas in Karachi face long hours of loadshedding in summers when the demand is at its peak. Measures to streamline the supply chain by the government have not been able to resolve the issue yet.
Both rapid urbanisation and electricity shortages owe their origin to poor governance, unplanned housing development, and faulty and poorly maintained units. The solution to the two key issues lies in proper management of MSW. The energy-generation potential of MSW from Karachi through bio-chemical and thermo-chemical processes is huge. The thermo-chemical techniques include pyrolysis, gasification and liquefaction.
In pyrolysis, we may heat MSW to very high temperatures in the absence of oxygen so that transformation into bio-oil, hydrocarbon-rich gas, and solid residues (biochar) is possible. In gasification, carbon in the MSW reacts with oxygen, yielding fuel gas. In liquefaction, the MSW may be converted into a liquefied state at high temperature and pressure. The major steps involved in biochemical conversion of biomass are enzymatic hydrolysis to give ethanol/butanol.
Waste-to-energy plants are operative in many developed countries, including China. We can gain benefits by the adoption of proper MSW management. The government should initiate deployment of waste-to-energy plants immediately to fulfill the electricity needs of the city.
The health issues faced by the residents due to garbage on roads in residential areas will also be resolved by waste-to-energy conversion and it will help the people of Karachi to have some quality of life about their existence.
Dr Intikhab Ulfat
NATIONAL POLITICS: The recent happenings in Senate involving the leader of the opposition have once again underlined the fact that politics in Pakistani is not too hard to understand. It was not the first time that a major party decided to ditch the combined opposition so blatantly. With this type of leadership in the opposition’s segment, the government has nothing to worry about. It is for the people to bear the brunt of such parties and their policies.
Malik ul Quddoos
LESSON FOR PARLIAMENTARIANS: I recently came across Ahsan Iqbal during a funeral in Karachi. I thought he had established one university in his Narowal constituency, but it turned out he had actually built three. One of those universities has 5,000 students, and 80 per cent of them are girls. If only the other parliamentarians could somehow do something similar, we will have hundreds of new universities across the country.
S. Nayyar Iqbal Raza
BRITISH HEALTHCARE: The public health system in the United Kingdom is not as good as it is often said to be. It often takes months to get an appointment with a doctor. The situation has become worse post-Covid. The health infrastructure is great, but its service delivery mechanism is flawed. If we look at Pakistan’s health infrastructure, it is poor, but its service delivery method is somehow better than what we have in the UK.
Aamir Ali Abbasi
COMPENSATION: A friend travelled in a train from New York to Montreal at 8am for a 550km journey of 11 hours paying $63. Due to unavoidable reason, the train reached the destination about one-and-a-half hour behind schedule. Realising the inconveniences to passengers, the railway authorities compensated each of them with travel vouchers worth $75 that were valid for two years. It meant $63 for total fare plus $12 for the waste of precious time, at the rate of $8 per hour, with an apology. I wonder if the example is worth emulating.
Siddik S. Jaangda
Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2022