LAHORE: Collection of solid waste and its temporary dumping by the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) and private people on the empty land on the premises of the Finance and Trade Centre (Johar Town) has become a permanent source of environmental issues in the area.

“The residents living around the area of Finance & Trade Centre—the city’s major business hub having Lahore Expo Centre, a huge shopping mall, a hotel and two under-construction high-rises—complained many a time but no one resolved the issue permanently,” deplores a resident while talking to Dawn on Sunday.

He said previously the solid waste was being dumped at the LWMC’s primary waste transfer station facing the hotel and the Expo Centre which also had become a public nuisance and it used to disturb the foreigners visiting the Expo Centre for attending international events or staying at the hotel.

In August, the issue was highlighted by the press and the then LWMC MD got the station closed down permanently with a direction to shift it outside the city or a place away from the public at large. At this, the company shut the station but after some time, its primary waste collection teams and the private people started dumping waste at a nearby plot.

LWMC terms it temporary arrangement for lack of available land in the area

This reporter visited the site and witnessed various vehicles and an LWMC mini-loader unloading the waste at the site, situated close to the Expo Centre, the shopping mall and the hotel.

“Several vehicles come and dump waste here but no one is stopping them despite serious environmental issues,” deplores a man standing near the site.

“The government must relocate this dumping site since we are already suffering from various health issues due to pollution,” he said.

According to an LDA official, the Finance and Trade Centre is the only area in Lahore originally planned to boost commercial activities by allowing construction of high-rises to unlimited height, subject to no objection certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and other departments concerned (if any). For this, the LDA was required to make some amendments to the building regulations. Unfortunately, it was not done, leading to allowing others (like the Central Business District Authority) to make business-friendly regulations and allowing construction of skyscrapers having unlimited height in Gulberg.

However, the government, in a bid to boost economic activities,

later approved the Finance and Trade Centre’s revised layout plan and an amendment to the LDA’s Building and Zoning Regulations 2019 under which the restriction on the buildings’ height was removed, allowing construction of skyscrapers in the high-end zone in Lahore.

“The places like the Finance and Trade Centre should never be used for waste dumping/lifting-related activities. It leaves a very bad impression when someone passes through this area with a dumping station,” the official deplored.

It merits mention that the LWMC had taken over the control of waste collection and disposal a year ago from two Turkish companies working since 2012. However, after the 2018 general election, the PTI government started probing all major initiatives, including in the LWMC, taken by the PML-N government and decided against extending the contract in December 2020. The same month, in a surprising move, the government took over all the assets and installations (workshops, machinery) being used by the Turkish firms and registered cases against Turkish companies’ senior officials. This led to a crisis, leaving most of the city areas dirty for weeks.

After relieving the Turkish firms, the LWMC took over the control of cleanliness operations to the extent of primary waste collection and outsourced the secondary waste collection to private firms. It also procured new machinery, equipment etc and started the operations, setting up temporary waste collection, dumping and transfer stations at Kamahan, Hando, Babu Sabu, Bhuptian, Johar Town, Mohlanwal, Raiwind, Thokar, Jadeh, Bhati Gate, Baradari, Saggian, Shadman, China Scheme and Ring Road for onward shifting of the solid waste to the landfill sites, including Lakhodair. However, the selection of a couple of transfer stations in city areas, especially the Johar town proved to be a wrong decision on the part of the government.

LWMC GM (Operations) Bilal Ashraf said the site where the waste was being dumped in Johar Town was a short-term arrangement keeping in view lack of land available to be used for such activities.

“Previously, we had closed down a dumping site near it. Since we had no option, we got this one to use for temporary dumping of waste that is cleared on a daily basis by our contractors deputed for secondary waste collection and final dumping at the Lakhodair landfill site (Mehmood Booti),” he explained.

Mr Ashraf said the company was facing a shortage of compactors used for collecting the primary waste that was being done previously by the Turkish contractors.

“At present, we have 30 compactors and we need 100 more for the entire Lahore. Hopefully, we will get these within the next three months as their manufacturing is underway these days,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2022

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