On a rainy day in August, little Nimra, a 12-years old girl from Lahore, was finally traveling on a train with her family to Karachi to see her grandma. She was enjoying the natural landscapes of the countryside outside of the window; suddenly she got appalled by the smoke coming out of a mounting heap of municipal waste. Struck by the shock, she asked her father “Papa! Itni smell kyun aa rhi hai is jgah say? Yeh itna barra dher kis cheez ka hai aur yeh jlaa kyun rhy hain?” (Why is there so much smell here? and What is this such a huge pile of which they are burning?). Her father was wordless to answer such simple questions.
Lahore is not a unique case; the situation in other cities is no different. Almost all metropolitans of the country—once known for their architectural marvels and healthy lifestyles—have reduced to stacks of Municipal waste. According to research, Pakistan generates almost 49.6 million tons of municipal solid waste per year; and the figure has been increasing by more than 2.4 percent annually. Municipal solid waste includes all waste materials such as plastic bottles, medical waste, electronic waste, food scraps, etc. As per a government report, the major metropolitans of the country generate almost 91,000 tons of solid waste per week.
The most pertinent question at the moment is: Is there any proper municipal waste management system (MWMS) in Pakistan? If so, why has it failed to deliver the results? Municipal waste management mainly deals with the collection and open dumping of more than 90% of the collected waste. It is estimated that only 60% of the waste generated is collected in most Pakistani cities. The uncollected waste lies in vacant plots, along streets, roads and railway lines, drains, storm drains, and open sewers within overall urban limits. This open dumping and burning causes land pollution and releases hazardous chemicals into the atmosphere.
The major reasons for the failure of the Waste Management system are the negligence of the departments concerned, lack of public awareness, and most importantly the lack of urban management and town planning. Keeping the gravity of the situation under consideration, Zaitoon has planned all of its housing projects equipped with state-of-the-art waste management systems. Yet the efforts by private entities are not enough to tackle this issue, the government must come up with a concrete plan to manage municipal solid waste to overcome health problems and control environmental and land pollution.