Some 5,000 cleaners of the Dhaka North City (DNCC) and the Dhaka South City (DSCC) corporations are now removing the posters and leaflets used in the city polls, but they will not be paid anything extra for this additional work.
The mayor and councilor candidates themselves were supposed to take down the posters from February 2, in accordance with the rules set by the Election Commission. However, the candidates simply ignored the rule.
Also, ahead of the elections on January 22, the High Court ordered the candidates to remove the posters covered with plastic. But they did not comply with the court order either.
Removing and dumping posters has thus become an extra responsibility of the city corporation cleaners as part of their regular duties.
Urban planner Professor Nazrul Islam said the candidates themselves should be responsible for removing the posters.
"Especially the candidates who win the polls should happily do so because they are going to work in their constituencies. They should start from here," he added.
Sources said there are 2,850 cleaners under 54 wards in the DNCC, and they each earn Tk6,500 per month.
There were 14 mayoral and 735 councillor candidates in the two city polls.
The Environment and Social Development Organisation, a research organisation in Dhaka, concluded in one of its recent reports that posters and plastics used in the campaigns this year would generate some 2,500 tonnes of waste.
City corporation officials said the Election Commission arranges the polls but does not make any allocation for removing waste produced by campaign material.
SM Shafiqur Rahman, additional waste management officer of the DNCC, told The Business Standard that Dhaka north has no separate budget for removing posters.
"The cleaners are doing this in addition to their regular job," he added.
There was no cleaner in 21 of the 75 wards under the DSCC. Five cleaners on average were later employed in each ward to remove the posters and leaflets, and they will work for at least seven days.
Now there are 1,875 cleaners in the DSCC, but data on their wages could not be obtained.
Khandaker Millatul Islam, adviser on waste management at the DSCC, estimates that more than one crore posters were used in the Dhaka south campaigns.
"This year, the use of polythene on posters has created an extra problem. That is why we had to employ extra workers in addition to the regular ones," he added.
Some 35 to 40 trucks have been deployed to remove poster waste in the DSCC area, but the number used in Dhaka north could not be obtained.
The two city corporations have no specific measure to deal with such waste. They are doing it the traditional way – removing the posters and taking them to landfill sites.
Waste generated in the DSCC is thrown away in the Matuail landfill site together with other types of waste.
MA Shahed, sanitary inspector of the Matuail landfill site, told The Business Standard, "We do not have the machinery to process plastic used on posters. We plan to use such equipment in the future, but now we are following the age-old method of getting rid of waste."