The Karachi city government has had enough of garbage on the streets. It’s now going to be fining people who litter.
A notification was issued by South Deputy Commissioner Syed Salahuddin. The DC has also asked for people’s help. If you see anyone throwing trash, take a video and send it to the DC’s office. If traders dump trash outside their shops, they could also risk losing their shop licence.
Salahuddin said that across the world, open littering is not allowed. In the first part of this campaign, we have over 600 union council volunteers, he said, explaining that in District South, there are five tehsils and the union secretaries are leading the campaigns in them.
He said their awareness campaign received a lot of support. But awareness and implementation are two very different things. Salahuddin said one way to ensure implementation is imposing Section 144 and making littering a cognizable (punishable) offence. That means they won’t be able to litter anywhere, he told SAMAA TV on its show Naya Din on Wednesday.
When we go abroad we understand that it is wrong to litter and put our trash in our pockets instead of throwing it on the ground, he said, adding that this mindset is reflective of society’s state of mind. We need to move to that state of mind, he said, where everyone thinks littering is wrong.
The population of District South hovers between 3.6 million and 3.7 million, said Salahuddin, adding that the district is home to Karachi’s business hub but shopkeepers dump trash outside their stores. We are in contact with the traders’ association and have issued a notification, but more importantly, we have made a request, he said.
We want people to practice what they preach, he said.
District South produces 1,200 tons of garbage every day and before their campaign, 1,000 tons were lifted every day. They now hope to lift another 150 tons. The district also employs 1,300 manual sweepers but Salahuddin says some are old and can’t work as efficiently as younger people could. There’s also an issue with absenteeism, he said, even though they have a biometric attendance system in place.
The Sindh Solid Waste Management Board has machinery and manpower, he explained, adding that it’s also their job. In order to clear the litter, they need both manpower and manual sweeping and they are working on improving that.
We hope to fulfill this requirement in the next six months, said Salahuddin. The DC previously served as the administrator of DMC East and says in 2015, when he was in power, it was pretty clean. We want to make this a sustainable effort, he explained, adding that with mechanical and manual sweepers as well as the cooperation of the people, they can do it.
But his enthusiasm wasn’t shared by MNA Alamgir Khan, known for his #FixIt campaign. He said that the district pays $26 per ton to a Chinese company to collect its garbage but even though it was stipulated in its contract, door to door collection still isn’t happening. Our issues won’t be solved till that happens, he said.
Another issue he sees in the DC’s plan is scavengers. They rummage through the garbage, take what they need — usually paper, plastic and metal — and dump the rest wherever they want, he said.
Salahuddin said that they are looking for permanent solutions to this and one that they’ve come up with is setting up garbage transfer centres in each district of the city. We don’t deny that scavengers are a problem but in order to stop this, we must have centres in each district, he said. They plan on setting one up in District South’s Dhobi Ghat this year. The DC said the project has been approved in this year’s budget.
But Khan says he has seen this before. There are laws against littering and laws against cutting trees but we see both happening every day, he said, adding that we need implementation. Taking a swipe at the garbage transfer centres, Khan said official dumpsites have been set up in residential areas, outside public schools and in playgrounds.
I will be addressing this issue on Sunday when I take the SSWMB to task, he announced, playing coy about giving further details of his plan. Khan is notorious for his rather creative ways of getting officials’ attention, from dumping garbage outside CM House to putting pictures of the last chief minister on open manholes in the city. His antics have often landed him in trouble, which may explain his hesitance to reveal his plans.
Salahuddin said that they haven’t begun taking action against anyone yet but the first step is awareness. I studied in Japan and it took them 20 years to tell people where to throw their garbage, he explained.
The MNA explained that of Karachi’s six districts, four are managed by the SSWMB and two by the DMCs. If garbage has to be collected in District Central or Korangi, then we can blame the mayor for it but the rest of the districts are the responsibility of Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani, he exclaimed.
There has been improvement in the garbage situation, he admitted, but not enough.
It starts from the leader, said the DC. For the past 12 days I have been starting my meetings every day at 7am and everyone is there and ready to work, he explained. We are paid for this and as civil servants we need to acknowledge our responsibilities, he said.
He said one problem they face is the machinery and lifting capacity gap. Right now we have two shifts working, once we make that three, things will change, he said.