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Existing operation

At present, waste is collected from both city corporations without segregation. Waste is collected on an area basis at a secondary transfer station (STS) before being dumped into the landfills. Environmental concerned are overlooked in this conventional traditional method, posing a risk to public health and livelihood.

Besides, there are groups are active to pocket money from collecting household and restaurant waste, each establishment being charged around Tk 80 to Tk 250 a month in certain areas and Tk 300 to Tk 500 per household and establishment in Gulshan and Banani. Holding Dhaka residents 'hostage', leaders and activists of the ruling party and local councillors' men earn at least Tk 6.16 billion (616 crores) a year from waste management. The master plan recommended changing the system.

Environment pollution from to two landfills

The Matuail and Aminbazar landfills are about to reach full capacity. There is no modern management though these are said to be 'sanitary landfills'. Visiting the DSCC Matuail landfill on 14 August, it was found heaps of garbage towering above 70 feet in several places and waste being dumped in open spaces, and spilling over into a nearby waterbody and spreading foul odour all around.

Set up on a 50-acre plot of land in 1989, the Matuail landfill reached full capacity in 2006. Later, 50 more acres of land was acquired. And this reached full capacity last year. DSCC acquired another 81 acres of land to extend the landfill. Currently, waste is dumped in the newly acquired land. A portion of this waste falls into the river polluting water and soil. Meanwhile, trees have been planted on the old part of the landfill.

The Aminbazar landfill is located outside the DNCC jurisdiction. It started on a 53-acre plot of land in 2006. The landfill was to reached full capacity, according to Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), by 2020. It spreads foul odour for several hundred meters around.

Visiting the Aminbazar landfill on 11 August, it was found cleaners working without gloves, masks and any other safety gear. There are open drains in the entire landfill to bring liquid waste to the refinery but waste piles up in the drain, blocking the water flow. There are privately owned lands and waterbodies surrounding the landfill and waste is being dumped on private property before the land is acquired. There is no soil cover on the landfill.

Background of the new Master Plan

Since 2003, JICA had been assisting the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC), undivided at the time, in waste management. DCC had implemented a waste management master plan from 2005 to 2015 with JICA assistance. Several projects had been carried out under this from 2006 to 2015. Then waste management departments opened in both Dhaka city corporations. The Matuail landfill was turned into a sanitary landfill. The number of STS, where waste is dumped for a short time, increased and the number of open dustbins decreased.

DNCC, however, didn’t acquire land for the Aminbazar landfill. Ward-based waste management hasn’t been completely implemented either. So, a process to formulate a new master plan kicked off for both city corporations. Both city corporations approved the master plan in 2019 and sent it to the LGD in November that year for final approval.

How far to zero waste?

The main objectives of the new master plan include effective and hygienic waste-collection methods, extending the capacity of two landfills, mobilising public awareness, community-based waste management and developing the capacity of the stakeholders.

The theme of the master plan was “Environmentally Advanced City with Integrated and Sustainable Solid Waste Management: toward Zero-Waste.” And zero waste includes 3R—reduce, reuse and recycling. It requires improving the waste collection system, minimising waste through segregating and recycling and reducing amount of waste disposal at landfills using various refining methods. And the master plan was to implement the 3R.

Eco-town

The matter of eco-town on coordinated waste management was completely new in the master plan and waste management depends on the waste category. An eco-town will have plant facilities for power generation, biogas, compost fertilizer production and recycling from waste.

According to the master plan, there would be two eco-towns in DNCC – one in Aminbazar and another in Nasirabad area and an eco-town for DSCC in Matuail.

DNCC pulls back from Master Plan

The DNCC took up the Aminbazar landfill extension and modernisation project at an estimated budget of Tk 7.86 billion (Tk 786 crores) to implement the master plan. Several officials at DNCC told Prothom Alo the South city corporation backed off from the eco-town idea after taking up the project. It’s now proceeding with power generation from waste only.

SM Shafiqur Rahman, additional chief waste management officer, told Prothom Alo, “Change will be made to the master plan. The DNCC wants to go for producing power next year. Thirty acres of land will be handed over to a Chinese company by June next year. The Chinese firm will invest and the city corporation will supply the waste only.”

However, the signing of an agreement between DNCC and China Machinery Engineering Company (CMEC) on the work is pending finalisation. The DNCC will supply 3,000 tonnes of waste daily while the Bangladesh Power Development Board will purchase the electricity from the investor for 22.72 cents or Tk 19.34 a unit.

But according to the city corporation officials, it's almost impossible to implement the project since waste in Dhaka contains more liquid. A kilo of waste from Dhaka contains 600 kilocalories, calorific value of waste. And it is not possible to produce power from waste unless the same amount of waste releases 1,000 kilocalories or more.

Shariful Alam Mandal, former team leader of JICA who was involved in formulating the master plan, told Prothom Alo the master plan talks about taking up waste management as per the waste category. The landfill is not a customary one nor does it work on power generation. And it’s not possible to produce power by burning all kinds of waste, he said.

DSCC proceeding with Master Plan

The DSCC’s waste management has been progressing in light of the master plan. Work on a land development project that includes the Matuail sanitary landfill extension is underway at a cost of Tk 15.44 (billion (1,455 crores). Mohammad Shafiullah Siddique Bhuiyan, project director of Matuail landfill extension project, told Prothom Alo waste management would be followed as per the waste category and implementation of the eco-town may start next year.

Citizen’s participation to rise

The stakeholders concerned, including residents, apparently have no participation in the existing waste management of two Dhaka city corporations. Citizen's participation must increase to modernise waste management. Public awareness covers a large portion of the master plan.

There is a 12-member waste management committee consisting of 11 ward councillors and an executive engineer in the city corporations. There is no room for non-government organisation representatives, university teachers or experts. The master plan recommended introducing a method to collect waste from certain points at specific times using plastic bins instead of the existing waste collection method. Direct communication between the city dwellers and the city corporations will be necessary to implement this system.

Delay in approval lingers implementation

The new master plan states 34 categories of work. Sixteen of them were set to be completed by 2021. But work couldn’t start due to not getting the ministry’s approval. Mohammad Shafiullah Siddique Bhuiyan, project director of Matuail landfill extension project, told Prothom Alo waste management would be more modernised and disciplined in line with the master plan. Once the master plan gets approval, work would start immediately, he added.

The LGD's Urban Development Wing oversees the master plan. Mohammad Zahirul Islam, deputy secretary (city corporation-2) at LGD, told Prothom Alo there are many technical issues in the master plan. And expert meeting would be called after the Covid-19 situation abated. And the matter of DSCC to produce power from waste would also be reassessed in the master plan, he added.

Regarding the overall issue, Akhter Mahmud, president of Bangladesh Institute of Planners and professor of urban and regional planning at Jahangirnagar University, told Prothom Alo the master plan states waste management should be as per classification and category of waste. To build a developed city, implementation of the master plan must start soon, he observed.

* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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