With a population that is growing at about 1.8 percent annually (World Bank 2011 report), the volume of solid waste is also increasing but unfortunately there is no single city in Pakistan which has a proper solid waste management system (SWM) right from collection of solid waste up to disposal.
Even cosmopolitan cities like Karachi and Lahore do not have any appropriate landfill or disposal site, instead, un-engineered landfilling, open dumping and open burning is being practised.
At present total solid waste generation in Pakistan is about 20.024 million tons a year, which is approximately 59,000 tons per day, according to an environment ministry study. This study also revealed that the rate of waste generation on average varies from 0.23 kg/capita/day to 0.61 kg/capita/day in rural and urban areas respectively. The study also showed that the growth rate of solid waste generation is about 2.4% per annum.
The increase in household size in major cities like Karachi, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar etc, is the foremost factor affecting the solid waste and its management at different stages. These cities are expected to double their populations in the next 10 years. As a result the amount of waste being generated ranges from 1.896 kg/house/day to 4.29 kg/house/day which is increasing annually with respective to population growth (Pak-EPA). However, the rate of solid waste collection in these cities ranges from just 51 per cent to 69 per cent of the total waste generated.
Open dumping, open burning and un-engineered sanitary landfilling are the usual methods of solid waste disposal causing environmental degradation and posing great threats to environmental sustainability in Pakistan.
The government has to work on the development and implementation of a standardised SWM system. Environmental legislation is still not well developed in Pakistan and the existing rules and regulations dealing with solid waste management are inadequate and outdated.
The writer is a consultant for the Sustainable Development Policy Institute
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2012.