Let's reduce the burden of waste
Today you will read this newspaper and maybe tomorrow you will throw it out. The nice shirt you purchased last year may have the same fate, along with the book you have just finished, and which nobody else in your family wants to read! Besides, your wife has promised to make your favourite mutton curry for dinner where all the bones and leftovers other will be the generated waste.
Usually today's precious belongings become tomorrow's waste. What we proudly owned today we tend to disown tomorrow. They are no more of interest to us. Is that the correct attitude?
Many of the things we throw out are resources that may be re-used or recycled into other products such as glass and paper. And then there are the kitchen wastes that if not properly managed and of disposed may pollute our environment. All of us venture outside our clean homes to go to our schools, workplaces and markets which we also need to keep clean as much as our homes to protect our health.
So we have to keep our interest on in our waste.
Then where does the waste go?
A primary waste collector with a rickshaw van will pick up our waste from our houses. He will go through the waste and remove some recyclable materials. He then takes the waste to a collection point. The Dhaka City Corporation manages the collection point by raising a dust bin or putting a large container there. DCC then sends a collection truck to collect the waste from the collection point daily. This is called secondary collection and transportation.
DCC transports the waste to two disposal sites -- Matuail landfill in the eastern perimeter of the city and Amin Bazar landfill in the western perimeter.
The Matuail landfill has been developed as a sanitary landfill as claimed by DCC and this means that the waste is disposed of there in an engineered manner so as not to pollute the surrounding area. DCC is also in the process to develop Amin Bazar landfill in a similar way. Sooner is better.
It is estimated that around 1,700 to 2,000 tons of solid waste is disposed of this way every day. We wish this does not pollute our environment any way any more.
The cost of our waste management is high. DCC employs a large staff of conservancy inspectors, cleaners, drivers and mechanics for the service. Over 300 waste collection trucks are operated and there are around 10 heavy equipment at the landfills. Considerable amount of fuel is burnt to operate the trucks and equipment. The total cost for operation and maintenance are estimated to be 80 million Taka monthly. And what are we paying?
We pay the primary collector Tk. 20 to 50 per month to collect the waste from our homes. And a portion of our property tax is earmarked as conservancy tax to be used for the waste management. It is estimated that 25 million Taka is collected as conservancy tax. So the cost borne by DCC for the waste management is more than three times the conservancy tax amount.
So we need to reduce the waste that we are producing and at the same time DCC has to use their personnel and equipment more efficiently in order to keep the solid waste management costs from rising.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been supporting the efforts of DCC in solid waste management (SWM) for the last nine years. Together DCC and JICA have prepared a master plan for SWM with the target year 2015. This plan covers management, technical, financial and community participation aspects. Under this plan DCC will provide more sustainable and efficient technical systems for secondary collection and disposal.
DCC has started to embark on this by developing Matuail landfill and will soon be modernising its aged waste collection trucks fleet.
But DCC's efforts alone are not enough. And that is why community participation in SWM has become increasingly important. DCC and JICA have made much effort to promote community participation.
Community units have been set up in six wards of the city during the last year. They discuss with DCC and primary collection workers in their areas on how to improve the primary waste collection, increase the public awareness against littering and eradicate the open dumping points. And these units take part in drawing up plans for locating the DCC collection points and considering the suitable collection times.
If we all agree that tomorrow's waste is due to our consumption practices of today, then we must acknowledge our combined responsibilities to manage the waste properly so that we do not create an unsanitary city, and also to conserve our God-given resources.
Today the urban citizens in Japan, and other developed countries are increasingly aware of their responsibilities towards SWM. Many of these responsibilities have become rules and regulations of SWM.
Japanese people are asked to segregate their waste at their homes into a number of categories in order to support recycling efforts. In Dhaka the mixed waste is discharged. The Japanese people do not have primary collection system but are asked instead to bring their waste by themselves to collection points designated by the city at specified times in the day. They must also put their waste in specified bags and never discard it unpacked. The Japanese municipal authorities provide secondary collection two or three days a week only, and not daily as in the case of many areas in Dhaka City.
It is often also said that it will take the passing of one generation before we can change the people's habits. So we need to start with our children. And I am sure that our children will play an important role as they are often found admonishing their parents on the latters' unsanitary habit, if witnessed.
Let's all take the responsibility to clean Dhaka as well as other cities.