To check the ongoing waste onslaught, participants at a daylong workshop called for a sound waste management policy without further delay.
Organised by The Daily Star in collaboration with Bangladesh Scouts, the workshop titled Waste Management in the city: Towards A Solution? also emphasised strict implementation of the existing laws, enactment of new ones, public awareness, community and private sector participation and decentralisation of relevant agencies to improve the waste management situation in the city.
Held at the Scout Bhaban, the workshop was moderated by The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam and Professor Nizamuddin Ahmed of BUET. Environmentalists, engineers, microbiologists, scout leaders, students, officials from Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and Dhaka WASA, and representatives of different professional groups attended it.
About 400 tons of solid waste generated everyday remains on the road and in open space while 300 tons are recycled by the 'rag pickers', participants said.
Professor Mujibur Rahman of BUET presented the keynote paper of the workshop while WASA Board Chairman Prof. Nazrul Islam, architect Shaheda Rahman of BUET, Prof Jasimuzzaman, and Natasha Ishrat, a school student from Viqarunnissa Noon School and College, put up recommendations of the participants, divided into four groups, at the concluding session.
Referring to DCC statistics, Dr. Mujibur Rahman said nearly 49 per cent of the city's solid waste is generated from residential areas, 21 and 24 per cent from commercial and industrial areas, and the rest from hospitals and clinics.
The ratio of lead, chromium and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) was found higher than the standard level in ground and surface water samples collected from adjoining areas of the dumpsites, he said.
Mahfuz Anam said disposal of waste in the city has emerged as a serious problem, and Bangladesh Scouts and The Daily Star will jointly launch a campaign on the issue.
He urged media including the radio and television to highlight the issue.
Dr Sirazul Islam of Microbiology Department of Dhaka University pointed out that with the use of recycling technology, waste is no longer a problem. He emphasised use of proper technologies and methods that can make the best utilisation of 'waste resource'.
Shaheda Rahman, making recommendations on behalf of her team on solid and hospital waste management, said that dumping sites should be relocated and there should be separate treatment plant, guidelines and laws for disposal of clinical waste. She also demanded a solid waste management master plan for DCC.
The workshop observed that potentially hazardous hospital wastes are being dumped onto municipal bins and are collected by DCC along with domestic household wastes.
Nurul Haq, superintendent engineer of Dhaka WASA, said, "We do not need new laws. All we need now is proper implementation of the existing laws." Haq added that the Department of Environment (DoE) has sufficient enforcing capacity.
The participants pointed out that human waste has become a major contributor to environmental pollution owing to fast-growing population, inadequate sanitation facilities and absence of waste treatment system.
The sewerage of Dhaka WASA covers only 20 per cent population of its service area, and 25 per cent people of its service area dispose of human waste through unsanitary means. Nearly 40 per cent people use individual septic tanks while the rest 15 per cent depend on pit latrines, they informed the workshop.
Professor Nazrul Islam, while putting up recommendations on behalf of his group on human waste management, stressed the need for installing more public and mobile toilets in the city. At present, DCC has only 30 public toilets for the city.
Besides, treatment plants should be installed in zones or areas and autonomous bodies should be charged with the units, the participants observed.
Environmental sanitation specialist Anisur Rahman said Dhaka WASA is the biggest pollutant of rivers around the city as a huge quantity of sewage, that are either untreated or not properly treated, is going into the rivers.
On behalf of his group that focused on industrial waste management, Dr Jasimuzzaman suggested that common effluent treatment plant be set up for clusters of industries as the small industries like tanneries in the city's Hazaribagh area can not afford separate treatment plant.
He also stressed the need for strengthening the monitoring and enforcing capacity of the DoE.
Natasha Ishrat put up the recommendations of her group on scout involvement in waste management. The participants put emphasis on involvement of scouts, school students and representatives of citizens' groups to create awareness among the people about waste management.
Among others, Dr Feroz Ahmed of BUET, Habibul Alam, National Commissioner of Bangladesh Scouts, Abu Naser Khan of Porosh and Q T M Habibur Rahman, Commissioner of Dhaka City Rover Scout, participated in the workshop.
Source: The Daily Star, November 19, 2000