Urban waste management is a challenge for Dhaka authorities. Two separate city corporations were formed to better manage solid waste. In the first of a four-part series exploring waste management in Dhaka, we delve into the initiatives designed to clean up the city
Dhaka’s solid waste management system has seen no major improvement in the past few years despite various initiatives taken by the two city corporations.
After their formation in December 2011, the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) authorities pledged to turn the city into a clean, green, liveable, digital and smart metropolis.
Generally, DNCC and DSCC dispose solid wastes at two landfills in Aminbazar and Matuail. They are unable to process solid waste properly even after applying the traditional landfill method.
Both city corporations have taken initiatives in collaboration with international donor agencies and the Local Government Division to process solid waste using modern methods.
The steps include urban public and environmental health development projects, community-based waste management activities, development of sanitary landfill, medical waste recycling plant and waste-based power plant.
Dhaka ranked as the fourth least liveable city among 140 cities in last year’s Global Liveability Ranking.
Flouting rules and orders
The city corporations’ solid waste management rules stipulate that the local bodies must collect waste from every house regularly.
The rules also call for waste collection from slums, squatter areas, hotels, restaurants, office complexes and commercial zones.
Biodegradable waste should be managed scientifically.
However, the permanent and temporary staff and sweepers employed by the DNCC and DSCC are reportedly not doing their jobs properly.
Dhaka residents say the authorities are yet to fix the garbage management and drainage system.
A Waste Concern study found that nearly 4,500 tons of household wastes are produced daily in Dhaka but DNCC and DSCC officials claimed the amount was 500 tons less.
Citizens themselves often do not follow the rules set by the authorities. They often dump garbage on roadsides ignoring waste bins and designated spots for garbage disposal.
Roadside mini bins go to waste
The DNCC and DSCC installed around 6,000 waste bins across the city in 2016.
But the project failed within a year due to a lack of awareness of the citizens. People kept throwing garbage on roads and footpaths instead of using the bins, many of which were also stolen.
DNCC Chief Waste Management Officer Commodore Abdur Razzak said they were planning to replace the bins and apply a new method.
“Our officials and ward councillors will sit with locals and find out which garbage disposal method they prefer. We will also speak with urban planners and experts,” he said.
Md Shafiqul Alam, chief waste management officer at DSCC, said they would also replace the missing bins.
STS project incomplete
DNCC and DSCC officials claim that they struggle with waste management as a project to build secondary transfer stations (STS) in every ward is yet to finish because of a faulty Rajuk plan.
The World Bank-funded project started in 2013 to improve waste management. It was scheduled to end by December 2015.
But it was delayed and remained incomplete due to lack of free space, and protests by influential people who illegally occupied the lands allotted for STSs.
Razzak told the Dhaka Tribune that they had planned to build 72 STSs in DNCC. Fifty-one of them have been finished and are currently in use.
In DSCC, Shafiqul said, only 12 of the 45 STSs have been built.
No steps to tackle dust
When it comes to dust pollution, the DNCC and DSCC apparently have no strict measures that can be taken against those dumping construction materials on roads and footpaths.
Uncontrolled open construction and tearing down of old buildings without safety protection and cover along with random road digging for repair works are also responsible for dust pollution.
Open garbage trucks
The city corporation authorities claimed to have instructed the cleaners and drivers to cover the waste when carrying them by garbage trucks from the STSs to the landfills. But their directives are not followed properly.
Waste-based power plants still a dream
Two waste-based power station projects initiated by DNCC and DSCC never took off due to fund crunch.
Shortly after winning the bid to build both plants, Italy-based Management Environment Finance SRL Ltd failed to provide the funds. As per the deal, construction should have begun within 130 days of the agreement.
The company could not start the projects even though the deadline expired on June 28, 2013, LGD and city corporations’ officials said.
DNCC’s 3R waste management failed
A Tk21cr project, financed by Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund, also failed to achieve its goal due to lack of awareness and poor waste management system,
The Department of Environment had reportedly undertaken the project in 2012, which prescribed the 3R method – reduce, reuse, recycle.
Inadequate waste treatment plant
Landfills at Aminbazar and Matuail are reportedly producing a large amount of leachate and have been polluting the environment of their nearby areas.
Leachate is the liquid that drains or leaches from a landfill and is very harmful for arable lands, water resources and aquatic lives.
There is a leachate treatment plant at Matuail, but it is insufficient to tackle the heavy load of waste, DSCC officials, seeking anonymity, said.
Meanwhile, there is no such plant at the Aminbazar. DNCC official Razzak said they were working on setting up a treatment plant there at the soonest.
He said they had floated tenders once to build the plant, but received no response. “Another tender will be invited very soon,” he said.