ISLAMABAD (Rahnuma): Sumaira Gul, a 43-year-old from Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad, drove some 200 university students to a location allocated for a ceremony in connection with cleaning of solid waste drive by the government.
Gul, a social activist working on solid waste management, told Xinhua that the government has taken a good initiative to launch this drive as it will give a message to the masses that they should clean and dispose off the waste they produce rather than dump it into streets or burn them in the open.
The country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan kicked off the drive on Saturday by planting a tree in a girls’college and swept part of floor as a symbolic gesture, in Islamabad.
The prime minister said that Pakistan is the seventh most vulnerable country to climate change in the world, so people and government should join hands to plant more trees.
The country’s Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said that the government has already launched tree plantation drive “Ten Billion Trees Tsunami” in the country to control the climate change and hostile environment conditions by promoting forestation, and now by launching Clean and Green Pakistan drive, her government wants to spread awareness among the people regarding importance of clean environment for healthy living.
The minister said that millions of people in the country do not have access to toilet, forcing them to defecate in open air, which is a major contributor to stunting, and causes many infectious diseases among people.
World Economic Forum meeting in January 2018 ranked Pakistan as 169th out of 180 countries in Environmental Performance Index rankings. The rankings that were released on the sidelines of the forum, said that a substantial population of Pakistan suffer from poor air quality and have no access to clean drinking water or environment.
According to a report by the State Bank of Pakistan, about 54,888 tons of solid waste is generated daily in urban areas of the country and 60 percent of it is collected by the municipal authorities in big cities while 30 percent to 50 percent of the solid waste generated within most of the small cities is not collected.
The report added that unplanned urbanization, poor sanitation and drainage system, inadequate human and capital resources for collecting waste, unavailability of official dumping sites, absence of weigh bridges for exact measurement of waste coming at sites, and almost negligible presence of recycling processes have negatively impacted waste management in the country.
In a conversation with Xinhua, advisor to prime minister on climate change, Malik Amin Aslam Khan, said that the new government came into power by slogan of change, and change cannot be brought by building roads or bridges.
“Change in its true spirit can be brought in the society if every individual gets determined to change himself. We have launched this initiative of clean Pakistan, so everyone should get on board and work together for a clean Pakistan to make future generations breathe in a healthy atmosphere.”
He added that the government will work on five projects under this campaign including planting trees, disposing off waste and garbage, providing clean drinking water, building public toilets and improving sewerage and sanitation system.
“We are sure we will change the basic mentality of people and encourage them to own their responsibilities towards the country, by this campaign.”
UN habitat Pakistan said on its website that the illegal dumping of waste in developing countries is where health problems start to creep in. Inappropriate methods like open burning are often used by the informal sector to recover valuable materials, bringing heavy impacts on human health and the environment, it said.
Faiqa Aziz representing UN habitat in Pakistan, told Xinhua that the drive is a very good initiative taken by the prime minister, and the UN Pakistan totally supports him in this cause.
“UN has established integrated resource recovery center for solid waste management in Pakistan and we hope and aim to support government in management of solid waste as it is a neglected area. By establishing such centers we can go to zero waste.”
The State Bank report said that private sector firms have initiated projects based on organic and in-organic waste management. Organic waste will be used to produce organic fertilizer whereas inorganic waste will first be sorted into paper, plastic, tin, and will be sold to respective industries where it will be recycled to make products like plastic wood and tetra sheets.
A private firm has established a recycling facility in Lahore where it is engaged to produce a refuse-derived fuel based on the concept of waste-to-energy. Similarly an NGO in Karachi encourages people to sell their waste to them and prepares soil-conditioning fertilizer. Another NGO is engaged in collecting urban waste in major cities of the country. It squeezes waste in order to dry it and finally produces waste pellets from it. The extracted liquid from organic waste is sold in market as liquid plant nutrient.
Local analysts believe that the government can achieve desirable results from the “Clean and Green” campaign by spreading awareness messages to the nook and corner of the country, besides establishing recycling plants in urban and rural areas where people can dump the waste materials.