Thousands of dustbins that had been installed around Dhaka at a cost of Tk8,000 per unit to promote cleanliness and encourage citizens to be more mindful of keeping the city clean are no longer to be seen. They have, in one word, disappeared.
In the areas of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), about 80% of the municipal dustbins are missing.
Residents of the city point out that the only remaining trace of the dustbins are the stands that once held the dustbins. Citizens complain that dustbins get stolen due to the negligence of authorities. The few dustbins that do remain are not properly maintained and the problem of littering persists.
Residents also allege that waste cleaners do not do their work properly. Some dustbins have not been cleaned since they were installed. In 2016, both city corporations set up 6,700 roadside dustbins across the city. After two years it is evident that the project failed due to a lack of awareness and compliance among citizens. People still throw their trash on the streets.
Ramzan Ali, a resident of Kalabagan, said: “More than 80% of dustbins of this area have been stolen. If the government hires enough people to look after them, the disappearances would stop. And cleaners have to be more active. They don't work properly and that's why drug addicted street children are able to steal the bins and sell them for drugs.”
Dhaka city is often littered with plastic bottles, cigarette butts, cigarette packets, paper, paper bags, discarded food, coconut shells, domestic refuse, and other waste, creating unhygienic conditions.
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According to a Waste Concern study, around 4,500 tons of household waste is produced in Dhaka every day. DNCC and DSCC officials claimed however that the amount was 500 tons.
Municipality experts think factors such as the lack of awareness among the general population, inaction by policymakers and city authorities, and the absence of adequate bins in public spaces of the capital fuel littering.
In December 2011, the DNCC and DSCC authorities had pledged to turn the city into a clean, green, livable, digital, and smart metropolis. However, Dhaka was ranked as the fourth least livable city among 140 cities in last year’s Global Livability Ranking in 2017.
Sources said that DSCC spent Tk4 crore for 5,700 dustbins and DNCC spent Tk70 lakh for 1000 dustbins. They were installed every 150 meters in densely populated areas of the city. Lesser populated areas had dustbins installed every 300 metres.
The two city corporations transport solid wastes to two landfills in Aminbazar and Matuail. They continue to struggle with processing solid waste properly.
Both city corporations have taken initiatives in collaboration with international donor agencies and the Local Government Division to process solid waste using modern methods.
DNCC adopted the 3R method - reduce, reuse, and recycle, a Tk21cr project - financed by Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund, which 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.
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A stand, which used to carry a dustbin installed by the Dhaka North City Corporation Rafikul Islam/Dhaka Tribune
The initiative prescribes better trash management, using four types of coloured bins - green, yellow, red, and blue - for different forms of waste collected from residential and commercial areas of Dhaka.
Late DNCC mayor Annisul Huq and DSCC mayor Sayeed Khokon had set a target to have a littering-free capital by March 2016.
Mayor Khokon had declared 2016 as the “Cleaning Year” in a press briefing on December 23, 2015. Then he disclosed plans to install the dustbins. About 12,000 bins were installed, with Tk8,000 on average spent for each bin.
The city corporation’s solid waste management rules stipulate that the local bodies have to collect waste from every house regularly. The rules called for waste collection from slums, squatter areas, hotels, restaurants, offices, and commercial areas. But the rules have not been adequately followed.
DNCC Chief Waste Management Officer Commodore M Abdur Razzak told Dhaka Tribune: “The city corporation is responsible for managing only the solid waste, and there are different agencies to manage waste at the sites.”
“There are 1,000 dustbins but we are trying to set up more. We have 3,100 cleaners who work about eight hours per day. We lack enough inspectors, so the duties are not being carried out properly. We are trying to address the issue in the DNCC,” he added.
He also added: “Actually our people are not sufficiently aware about keeping the environment clean. When we set up dustbins, general people don't use them.”
Asked whether they have any plans to raise awareness among the general population, he said: “We want to have long-term plans, including a proclamation billboard, leaflets, and public awareness programs so that we can further keep Dhaka North neat and clean.”
Khandker Millatul Islam, Assistant Chief Waste Management Officer of DSCC told Dhaka Tribune, “51% of dustbins are fit and some bins we removed for road construction. People are not at all dedicated to keeping our city clean. We campaign from time to time in this regard but people still drop waste here and there.”
“We have 5,200 cleaners and a total of 57 conservancy inspectors in our wards who instruct them. We want to reinstall dustbins where they have been stolen,” he also said.