ISLAMABAD, Oct 14: The capital city’s litter collecting problems are not confined to paper cups thrown in food streets or people tossing wrappers out of moving cars. The civic authority itself has been littering sectors after sectors.

After being forced by the local residents to shift the landfill site from Sector H-11, H-10 in 2010; G-11, G-10 in July 2011 and I-15 in December last year, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has found another temporary site in Sector I-12 to openly dump municipal, including hazardous, waste. The site was earlier shifted to Sector I-14 but moved out from there due to pressure from the residents as they had to live in stink.

Environmentalists in the Ministry of Climate Change worry that these activities carried out in ad hoc manners have unfavourable environmental and community health implications.According to Farid Shah, the supervisor of the site located right on the banks of a nullah and the neighbouring railway carriage factory on I.J. Principal Road, about 50 to 60 trucks dumped waste there after collecting them from homes and offices.

“Trucks and tractors start coming in 8:30am and keep dumping mounds of garbage until 3pm to 4pm,” said Mr Shah, as he gestured to a garbage truck ‘Ok’ to reverse.

Bulldozers assemble and compact loads of garbage into heaps before pushing it all into depressions/ditches that takes seven to ten days to fill. Children and adult scavenged around the unloading vehicles for reusable items in clouds of dust kicked up by the trucks. Worse than the awful stench that hangs over the land half the size of a sector but the hazardous material from factories unloaded openly.

The site, roughly seven to eight months old, is at the centre of settlements about 300 to 400 metres on all sides where stench spreads out over houses, a school built for Chinese children, the PTCL exchange, the under-construction Pakistan Housing Authority apartments, British Homes in I-13, I-11 fruit and vegetable market and the neighbouring residential area, National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in H-12, on I.J. Prinicipal Road and Dhoke Hasu beyond.

“It will not be long before somebody notices the environmental impacts and the CDA will have to shift the site to another open area again,” said a senior official in the Ministry of Climate Change.

“And while the CDA thought it could solve the problem by shifting the landfill in G-10 to some other place, it has created an even bigger environmental concern. Our brief study indicates that the leachate (highly toxic liquid waste from broken down garbage) will likely contaminate the ground and the aquifer,” the official explained, fearing that the new I-12 site would later also poison the land and the groundwater when rainwater carried leachate with it deep into the ground.

An official in the environment wing of the CDA said they had found an open space in Sector I-17 to develop a proper landfill site to dispose of solid waste. The temporary sites were selected after thorough surveys.

“It could take a year to two years even before the site is completed for the purpose,” the official added.

CDA’s Director Urban Development Department Ghulam Sarwar Sandhu explained that municipal waste management was a highly technical job. “Billions of dollars are spent worldwide on improving waste disposal because it has environmental impacts and a major cause of diseases. And CDA still needs to work on this issue,” he said, emphasising how the civic body should take the landfills away from settlements and improve delivery system as well as finding proper solutions to decomposing plastic bags that could last buried in the ground for several decades.

However, Mr Sandhu shrugged off apprehensions that leachate was a serious threat. “Leachate is injurious only when the water table is high under the ground or flows into a stream,” he maintained.

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