The waste mountains of Gazipur | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 19, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:48 AM, October 19, 2020

The waste mountains of Gazipur

City corporation cannot seem to find a landfill site for 8 years, continues to dump garbage beside Dhaka-Tangail highway

In proper garbage management, waste should be disposed of in a protected landfill area first to minimise pollution of surface and ground water, soil and air. Later, those have to be gradually recycled, reused and incinerated.

Unfortunately, in a city like Gazipur, the authorities do not follow any of the required steps. All they do is pile all sorts of garbage in open space beside Dhaka-Tangail highway, turning the spot at Baimail into a cluster of waste mountains.

Alarmingly, Gazipur City Corporation has been dumping waste this way for the last eight years.

In the process, the only excuse the authorities make is that they have no landfill, although they are entrusted with arranging so. Whenever asked, they come up with the same reply, "We are looking for a piece of land."

According to the city corporation, as many as 2,500 tonnes of waste, including medical waste, are produced in the city daily and all are dumped there. Around 90 trucks and 65 vans are engaged in the process, said Ranju, a driver.

Due to this unabated waste dumping, the resident of the area are the worst sufferers.

"We have appealed to the city authorities repeatedly to come up with an alternative, but to no avail," said Anjali Das from Baimail.

Jui Akhter, another resident of the area, said they have to keep their doors and windows shut throughout the day to get rid of the putrid smell.

Noni Mohon Sarkar, a local, echoed them. Monir Hossain, president of Bangladesh  Nadi Paribrajak Dal, said "looking for  land" is a lame excuse by the city corporation. "City dwellers won't tolerate it. The unsorted waste must be removed to protect  people and environment."

Failure to arrange a landfill for waste disposal also became a problem for the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) as waste continues to spill on to the highway, hampering traffic movement. Moreover, when it rains the road becomes dangerously slippery due to the garbage.  

RHD and the city corporation have long been exchanging letters over the matter. RHD Executive Engineer Muhammad Saifuddin said, "We have sent letters to the city corporation authorities multiple times in this regard. Each time, they replied that they would resolve the issue soon."

He said actions will be taken in this regard soon.

Asked, Gazipur city waste management officer Sohrab Hossain said they are trying to set up a dumping station somewhere else.

Meanwhile, the Department of Environment (DoE) Deputy Director Abdus Salam said they had recommended to the DoE headquarters to take disciplinary actions as the city corporation did not comply with their repeated notifications in this regard.

The city authorities were summoned in late September when the waste management officer denied dumping of garbage beside the highway, alleged the DoE official.

He said they have assigned an enforcement officer who will inspect the situation and report back soon.

The Gazipur waste management officer refuted the allegation.

Asked about health hazard, Md Khalilur Rahman, director of Gazipur Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed Medical College Hospital, said it is obvious that such unhygienic waste disposal is a major threat to public health. "If you are exposed to waste, you will suffer from diarrhoea, typhoid and jaundice," he said.

On the other hand, clinical waste contains toxic chemicals, radioactive elements and pathological substances which are harmful for human body, said the director.

Infected with airborne germs, people will suffer from respiratory problems and allergies, he added. "If such a situation continues unabated, like in the case of Baimail, the diseases may become chronic."

Baimail resident Anjali Das said most of her family members were already suffering from such diseases. "Besides, the place has also become a breeding ground for various insects, including mosquito.

Noni Mohon Sarkar, another resident, said, "Whenever any VIP travels through the road, the administration tries to hide the garbage by temporarily setting up a tin fence."

Contacted, Gazipur City Corporation Chief Executive Officer Mostafizur Rahman admitted that they have been dumping waste there since the city corporation was established in 2013.

"We are seeking land from individuals to different organisations for a landfill, but to no avail," he said. "Waste can be managed properly only when a landfill is ensured," added the CEO. City corporation's Additional Chief Engineer Akbar Hossain echoed the same.

When asked what official process they are following to acquire or purchase land for a landfill, he told this correspondent to talk to the mayor.

Asked, Mayor Jahangir Alam said, "We are still looking for a place."

When this correspondent wanted to know the details, the mayor declined to comment, saying, "Talk to the waste manager."

He did not respond to repeated phone calls by this newspaper afterwards.

Waste Management Officer Sohrab Hossain, however, said he is not the right person to talk about the land issue. "I am barely a service holder."

When asked if they had informed the LGRD ministry of the problem, he said, "We didn't feel the need as we ourselves are trying to resolve the issue."

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