What is the future of the waste management master plan?

Photo shows an open waste filling station.
Prothom Alo

A member of an upper class family produces 495 grams of solid waste a day in Dhaka city while a member of middle class family and lower class produces 483 and 193 grams respectively.

Most of this is food waste. Considering this daily tally, more than 7,500 tonnes of solid waste is produced daily in two Dhaka city corporations. And when considering the entire country, the amount of waste produced daily will be much higher.

No modern and environment friendly waste management was built in the country 50 years after the independence. Waste management is being run on traditional method without considering the environmental aspect. Initially, waste is collected without separating it and the remaining portion goes to rivers, canals and drains. Such management may cause damage to citizens’ health and livelihood.

To change the situation, the Dhaka South City Corporation and the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) formulated a 15-year master plan with the inclusion of a coordinated waste management. Both city corporations approved the daft of the master plane two and a half year ago, followed by sending it to the local government division for final approval in 2019.

Photo shows Matuail landfill of Dhaka South City Corporation.
Prothom Alo

On 7 February this year, the local government division approved the draft with several instructions stating that the city corporations would follow the master plan, either full or parts of it, as per their necessity. Documents of the local government division states approval of the master plane would not hamper the on-going waste-to-energy project.

The DNCC had backtracked from the master plan because of such ‘strange’ instruction prior to the approval by the local government division.

An eco-town was to be built under the coordinated waste management of the both city corporations, where waste including biogas, compost and construction waste would be reused to produce electricity.

However, the DNCC has pulled back from the coordinated waste management and taken initiative to produce electricity in large scale. The DNCC says electricity would be produced by burning all types of waste.

The DNCC inked a deal with China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) to produce electricity. Under the agreement, the DNCC would supply 3,000 tonnes of waste daily for energy production and the Power Development Board would purchase this electricity at a fixed price.

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The waste-to-energy project of Dhaka is very complex and difficult to implement. Waste in Dhaka contains more liquid so it is almost impossible to produce massive heat from such waste. 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.

Though the DNCC skipped the mater, the DSCC’s waste management has been progressing in light of the plan. Work on Matuail sanitary landfill extension project is underway at a cost of Tk 15.44 billion (1,455 crores). Eighty-one acres of land has been acquired under the project and waste would be treated as per its type.

The master plan of both city corporations is almost similar. The main objectives of the 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.

Since the DNCC has pulled back from the plan and the local government has allowed the city corporation to implement it in parts, question has aroused on the future of the master plan.

Photo shows Aminbazar landfill of Dhaka North City Corporation.
Prothom Alo

The waste-to-energy project of the DNCC has been taken without carrying out any environmental and economic feasibility. There are several limitations in waste-to-energy production around the world. How much of Dhaka’s waste management would change, depends on the success of the project that was taken bypassing the master plan.

According to the estimate of the master plan, 8,500 tonnes of waste would be produced a day in 2032.

The theme of the master plan was “Environmentally Advanced City with Integrated and Sustainable Solid Waste Management: towards Zero-Waste.” And zero waste includes 3R—reduce, reuse and recycling. The master plan was to implement the 3R strategy.

Since a city corporation has pulled back from the master plan, uncertainty looms large over implementing the 3R strategy.