© Tom Vierus / WWF-US

Hajra Mahmood is an M.Phil student at the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi and teaches sociology at Habib Girls Higher Secondary School.

The city may be one of the largest in the world but the infrastructure running in the city is deteriorating and showing signs of degradation. With effective measures and political grit, the city can regain its lost glory.

The Paris of Asia, this was a title once given to Pakistan’s largest city Karachi during the British Raj. With its greenery, pristine beaches and cleanliness, the city was a sight to behold. After independence, the city became the capital

of the newly born state of Pakistan. During this era, the population started increasing and it became the economic centre of the country.

“Karachi is the city of dreams and opportunities” is a slogan that has been a belief of all the people in Pakistan. As the seventh-largest urban area of the world, it always held international prominence. The city has been the hub of migrants from not only India but Bangladesh, refugees from Afghanistan and internally displaced people that have made the city overpopulated and because of the influx the city limits have expanded without prior planning. Urban planning in Karachi has been neglected and
never properly implemented due to political laxity of the government. Solid waste management is a man-made problem, which has been neglected for far too long in Karachi and whose effects are now palpable. The root cause of the issue is not the capability of workers or the system but administrative and management issues as instability at the administrative level have damaged not only institutions but the city as well.

The city had four master plans for its structure and maintenance and only one of them included details to counter the solid waste problem of the city; Karachi Plan 2020. The Master Plan 2020 is a comprehensive and detailed culmination of the hard work of the city Nazim
(of the time) and his team that not only shows the clarity
of ideas, aims and objectives of the plan but it also studies the previous three Karachi plans, what problems they faced and how the current government or coming governments are going to tackle the problem of solid waste. Moreover,

it discusses that an urban city like Karachi requires more landfill sites than the two it already has, Jam Chokro and Gondpass. Until now Karachi has lagged behind in achieving its target and has regressed from where it was 10 years ago.

© WWF-Pakistan

Karachi used to produce 2,000 tonnes of solid waste per day before 1974, which rose to 6,000 tonnes per day
in 2001 as per the Urban Resource Centre (URC), which later increased to 9,000 tonnes per day in 2005 and

is predicted to reach 20,000 tonnes per day in 2020. Multiple factors have played a role in contributing to the surging growth of waste in Karachi. Overpopulation is one of the major factors in increasing the problem. The influx of people from rural areas to urban centres like Karachi, the war on terror, the Afghan refugees entering Karachi, has exacerbated the problem of waste and pollution. With the inflow of migrants and people seeking opportunities
in metropolitan hubs of the country, the planning of settlement and land use was lacking, which provided
the base for misuse of resources and poor solid waste management. In addition to that, the population living
in katchi abadis (shanty towns) do not have the facilities to have their solid waste collected hence they dispose of it
in drains, streets or in open plots. The sudden growth of fast-food restaurants in the recent decade is another factor for the increase in garbage disposal issues. The waste produced by restaurants and their buyers both contribute to this. Small scale restaurants mostly don’t follow relevant policies on hygiene and health, which results in them throwing garbage on the roadside.

Today, waste management is worse than ever in Karachi as bridges, roads and localities all are swathed in waste and garbage. The Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) was formed in 2014 under the Act of Sindh Assembly 2014 to manage and control the refusal system properly. Previously, Karachi’s solid waste system came under the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and 13 other districts but now the areas, which came under KMC have been transferred to SSWMB.

According to the Director of Operations, SSWMB, Karachi, the city now has 12 Garbage Transfer Stations (GTS) with five operative ones in EMB Cosway (District East), Sharafi Goth (District Malir), Baldia (District West), Kasba (District West) and Dhobi Gaath (District South). From 12 of these stations, four will utilise the collected waste to produce electricity in the near future. According to the Secretary

of SSWMB, 80 per cent of garbage is collected from the ground and dumped into the stations, which later on at night is transferred to landfill sites.

He also explained that currently, three Executive Directors oversee the Sindh solid waste system. They also plan to use scientific methods in two current landfill sites whose work on boundary walls has started. To balance the growing waste, a 3,000-acre landfill site, called Dhabeji, has been bought to mitigate the pollution level in the city.