Trash in the Twin Cities

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Feb 11, 2014.

Islamabad/Rawalpindi – Hung between two electricity poles, it was a regular, innocuous-looking banner made of white fabric, outside the south boundary wall of the Fatima Jinnah Women University at Katchery Chowk in Rawalpindi. On it were printed several appeals addressed to the general public, issued and endorsed by the top three officials of the Rawalpindi district administration. This was December 2013.

The first appeal read: “Cleanliness is one-half the faith.” The appeal is one that surfaces ever so often perhaps in a desperate attempt to gain people’s cooperation in handling an out-of-control solid waste management problem, which has exposed the inefficiency of the district and municipal authorities.

Municipal solid waste, or trash, is basically discarded waste material from residential and commercial sources. Solid waste items include plastic, paper, kitchen and vegetable waste, metals, construction materials and glass. A solid waste management system typically involves collection, transportation and disposal of the waste.

Rawalpindi and Islamabad have such systems in place, but these systems do not work too well.

Nearly 400,000 tons of trash is collected each year from the twin cities, according to official statistics. Departments responsible for solid waste management in Rawalpindi and Islamabad claim this performance is satisfactory. Yet, at least around 95,000 tons of waste materials end up uncollected and left on the streets of the two cities each year, according to official estimates.

With a 3.1 per cent nationwide urban growth rate, Rawalpindi and Islamabad — already bustling cities with a total population exceeding five million — are bound to swell up. The amount of solid waste generated in the twin cities might also double or quadruple in a few years.

There is some hope: The Rawalpindi district government is looking to outsource waste management to a Turkish firm. With the Supreme Court’s recent notice to the capital’s civic agency to find a permanent fix for waste disposal, Islamabad might look for a private waste management firm too.

Municipal solid waste, or trash, is basically discarded waste material from residential and commercial sources. Solid waste items include plastic, paper, kitchen and vegetable waste, metals, construction materials and glass. A solid waste management system typically involves collection, transportation and disposal of the waste.

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