If one is traveling around any urban concentration across the country, the scenes of erratic littering can in no way escape the vision. Kitchen wastes or construction debris or industrial refuses captivate the common sight in any city or township. An immediate question stirs the thought - if there is any management of these wastes. The answer or answers could be another round of thought-provoking endeavours.
The urban areas in Bangladesh produce about 20000 tonnes of solid waste every day of which over 5000 tonnes in Dhaka metropolitan area alone. These include domestic waste, i.e., from households and kitchen markets, hospital wastes and those from industries. Almost the entire gamut of these wastes is finally disposed in designated landfills by the city and municipal corporations. However, the management of collection of these wastes is in total disarray making the waste disposal scenario a deplorable one and heavily linked to enormous health hazards.
Stray littering is almost a habitual one. It is only a few years that people in some places have begun garbage disposal in an organised way. Certain private community-based initiatives have done the good of initial collection of the garbage but the gross collection remains with the city or municipal corporations. Herein lies the problem as these organisations have been failing to implement their responsibilities due to various factors such as constraints in vehicles, fund, manpower and skill. As a matter of fact, Dhaka City Corporations can only manage fifty per cent of waste collection. This results in huge pile-up of garbage in various places of the city turning those into grave environmental concerns.
Waste disposal is a growing problem as it corresponds to population growth and consumption patterns. Currently, land filling is the common practice but with very limited area available there should be a limit to this. In all modern cities, incineration is the usual practice but this entails huge costs of installation and operation. Another bottleneck for incineration is that there has to be judicious separation of waste because waste with high moisture content will not be viable.
Given the fact that wastes are increasing stupendously and the authorities concerned are unable to meet the required disposal mechanism, there has to be a rigorous effort to develop a prudent management system. There is currently no governmental policy or rules to govern solid waste management in the country. This demands urgent attention to take off the adding-on costs to health of the public and damage to the environment. The Environment Conservation Act of 1995 is mainly focused on industrial enterprises while the City Corporation and Pourashova Ordinance of 1977 gives a tacit reference with regard to solid waste management in their respective areas.
In order to bring about a sustainable solid waste management, there is a greater need to implement a strategy that will focus on incineration while creating also public awareness on reduction of waste by popularising recycling and reuse. There has to be a paradigm shift in our consumption habits too. Otherwise, waste will turn into a great social menace besides denting the economy with enormous health and environmental costs. It should be quite worrying, indeed!
(The writer is a CSR consultant & broadcaster. Email: [email protected])