Environmentalists have said the waste management in cities across the country is still irregular and those responsible for such management are doing as per their wishes without paying attention to the environment. They have demanded that slum dwellers be assured of proper waste management.
Every household in most slums of the capital is forced to pay a monthly fee despite the waste not being removed on a regular basis, they said at a press conference on community-led solid waste management and the right of urban slum dwellers to a "pollution-free Dhaka city".
Speakers at the Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia Conference Hall at the National Press Club on Thursday alleged irregularities in waste management and trade in waste not only in slums but also in all areas of the capital and demanded a solution to the problem.
Those who collect waste from houses take all the waste together and throw it in the dumping yards. As a result, medical waste, e-waste and solid waste are mixed together and pollute the environment. The biggest obstacle is the lack of management on the part of the city corporations.
However, both the city corporations in Dhaka denied the allegations and claimed that they collect and manage the waste regularly with their own manpower. The city corporations are taking action against the cleaners who do not abide by the rules.
At the press conference, several dwellers from Molla slum in Dhaka North City Corporation's Ward No. 6, Karail slum in Ward 19 and Hazaribagh Balurmath slum in Dhaka South City Corporation's Ward No. 55 and Hazaribagh Buabazar slum in Ward No. 14 complained that the city corporations do not collect waste from their slums on a regular basis. Besides, cleaners do not go to some of the slums to take the waste away. Every 4/5 days, cleaners collect the waste from in front of their houses.
But slum dwellers are made to pay a monthly fee of Tk100 per house, they further alleged.
On behalf of the slum dwellers, Husnayara Rafiza Begum said waste collectors take the waste one day and again abstain from doing so for two or more days.
"If we tell them about this, they stop taking the waste but at the end of the month they receive the money. Waste from other areas is also brought and kept next to our slums. It gives off a bad stench and from these we get various diseases," he added.
To materialise the dream of a pollution-free Dhaka city, four non-governmental organisations with the financial support of USAID and FCDO have started activities for community-led solid waste management in the four slums earlier this year.
At the press conference, Engr Md Abdus Sobhan, environmental expert and former additional director general of the Department of Environment, said that the country's 1992 environmental policy was redesigned in 2018.
"But even there, the responsibility of waste management has not been handed over to the local government, so the waste management of the country's cities is still irregular and they are doing as they wish without paying attention to the environment," he added.
Arun Karmakar, advisory editor of Energy Bangla, said the number of cleaners has doubled in the last few years but there is no proper waste management.
"If the waste management of the slums is handed over to an organisation, this problem will be solved quickly," he added.
Speakers at the press conference presented 12 recommendations for proper waste management of slum dwellers.
Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Ward No. 19 Commissioner Mohammad Mofizur Rahmani told TBS, "We have two development committees through which waste is managed. And waste is collected from the slums every day. Since it is a slum area, some dirt falls here. It is not possible to keep the whole one hundred percent clean."
Regarding irregular waste management, he said, "We have taken action after receiving such a complaint. And we will take action if we get a complaint in the future."
Air Commodore Sitwat Naeem, chief waste management officer of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), told TBS that waste is regularly collected from the slums.
"No complaint has been received yet about mismanagement regarding slum waste. I will take action if anyone makes a specific complaint," he added.
Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Save the Environment Movement (Poba), said, "Just as we cannot afford to exclude slum dwellers, we need to think about improving their quality of life. Village waste management is no longer the same in the city. Therefore, cultural transformation is important in waste management."
Noting that there should be a separate minister for waste management, he said, "If our waste management is done properly, we will be able to turn waste into wealth. In every residential area, arrangements have to be made for low-income people. Integrated measures should be taken for economic development and waste management."