PANO Aqil, a city between Sukkur and Ghotki in Sindh, is facing a major solid waste management crisis. As is the case with most civic issues, the matter of growing municipal waste is not specific to any city or area. It is a challenge on the national scale. Pano Aqil is part of a region that is home to many political veterans and has one of the largest cantonments in the country, but that means nothing when it comes to sorting out civic issues.
With the population of the city growing rapidly, the amount of waste generated is also increasing. The city’s existing municipal infrastructure is unable to cope with it. The most pressing issue is that of improper waste disposal, which is made worse by lack of public awareness and sense of civic responsibility. That being so, garbage dumps piling up on roadsides are a common sight in the city.
Ironically, in the vicinity of the residential area right beside a National Highway Authority (NHA) signboard that reads, “Throwing garbage within the jurisdiction is strictly prohibited”, tonnes of garbage and solid waste are found round the clock, round the year, making one wonder which came first; the signboard or the garbage!
The site, which is filled with municipal waste, has been growing steadily both horizontally and vertically over the last few years and is now a major eyesore in the area.
As a law student, I tried to put my legal knowledge to good use to find out if the garbage dump in question is actually a landfill site or if it is the result of municipal negligence. Besides, if there are any other designated landfill sites in the city, their capacity, the amount of garbage collected from the city, and other related data. To this end, I relied on Article 19-A of the Constitution and The Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016, as well as Section 151 of The Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, which outlines that “every citizen shall have the right to information about any office of the district government, taluka, tehsil, municipal administration and union administration”.
To my surprise, those at the municipal office had no knowledge of such data or if it even existed. Thus, all my attempts in this regard proved futile. This made me realise that granting rights on paper is not enough; they must be available on the ground and in practice.
People living in the vicinity of the landfill face a wide range of problems, from physical to psychological. Moreover, the hazardous material has been infested with pests, including rats, and flies that are spreading infectious diseases in the area. The foul smell emanating from the landfill is also having a major impact on the local environment and the quality of life of the local people.
Swift action is essential to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the area residents. The contaminated site must be thoroughly cleaned and maintained. If the site is designated as a landfill, it must be relocated to a suitable area in accordance with relevant guidelines and protocols. The authorities concerned need to pay attention to the harm posed by the garbage dump.
Abdul Qadeer Chachar
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2023
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