Waste management in pre-industrial times was trouble-free, as most of the waste consisted of unrefined materials which decomposed naturally.
With the change of consumption patterns, non-biodegradable synthetic materials such as plastic have become one of the leading causes of marine and coastal pollution.
The management of waste is one of the obligatory functions of urban governance institutions in Bangladesh. The yearly escalation in urban population of Bangladesh is over 3.3%.
Population Division of UN (2016) has mentioned the urban population status in Bangladesh: It was 23.8% in 2000; 30.4 % in 2010, and it is 34.9% now. It can be 38% of the total population by the year of 2020.
Waste generation has also augmented proportionately with the intensification of urban inhabitants. As such, inner-city governing institutions are facing difficulties to keep up and ensure ample waste management services.
Approximately 250 industries discharge chemical effluents into urban water bodies. Each day, 4,000 tonnes solid waste and 22,000 tonnes tannery waste mix with water in four rivers of Dhaka city.
Pollution in Dhaka city is mainly composed of 48% pulp and paper, 16% pharmaceuticals, 15% metals, 12% food industry, and 7% fertilisers/pesticides.
The daily waste production in Dhaka city is about 3,000 metric tons, of which 40% is left on the streets
In urban areas, waste is discharged directly into the rivers and low-lying parts around the urban areas. Disposal management of solid waste in the urban area is inadequate. Household garbage, industrial waste, and waste from clinics and hospitals are all dumped in the same place.
The daily waste production in Dhaka city is about 3,000 metric tons, of which 40% is left on the streets.
Nowadays, in Dhaka South City Corporation, 3,500 tonnes of waste are generated from which only 1,900 tonnes are processed. Although there are 1,000 street cleaners in the Dhaka City corporations, most of the streets are never swept.
In addition, the generation of electronic waste -- such as television, refrigerator, computer, tube lights, and mobile phones -- has created a new threat for us. Environment and development organisations mention that during the period of 2011-12, it was five million metric tons and over 2013-14, it was 11 million metric tons. The figures are on the rise in Bangladesh.
Can anything save us?
With the current practices in collection and transportation of solid waste in municipal areas of Bangladesh, the city corporations are faced with severe challenges to tackle the rapid deterioration of environmental and sanitation security.
This results in unhygienic and filthy living conditions in urban Dhaka.
With the multiplicity of environmental problems created by urban waste, now the question of governance regarding urban solid waste management is more imperative than ever.
As an urban governance institution, the city corporation is primarily accountable to enforce existing policies in managing its solid waste through recycling and non-polluting disposal methods.
In general, governance of waste management is essential for environmental security.
Integrated waste management includes re-use, source reduction, recycling, composting, land-filling, and incineration.
Better use of the 3Rs (reuses, reduce, and recycle) strategy can play a vital role to 100% waste reduction. In addition, large-scale composting and recycling programs ensure 10% and 30% waste reduction.
For liquid wastes and effluents disposal, we have to set up waste and effluent treatment plants in every red and orange-coloured factory, enlisted by the environment department following environmental laws and policies.
For medical waste disposal, incineration would be feasible.
As the heap of waste materials create odour pollution, the establishment of green buildings and related incentives would give confidence to take up recycled-content materials and instruments at new construction sites.
In urban areas, awareness about waste management, odour pollution, and impacts of effluents among people is urgent.
Shishir Reza is an environment analyst and Associate Member of Bangladesh Economic Association.