‘Trashy’ tales from around town

Keeping the city clean is never an easy job without help from the citizenry.

Vaqas March 04, 2012
I was walking back from a coffee shop this morning when I got a wonderful reminder of one of the failings of our city administration. I wanted to throw away my empty coffee cup and realised there wasn’t a single trash can around. There was however, a small pile of garbage every few meters, along with the dozens of cigarette butts, bottle caps and similar “pocket lint” strewn across the entire sidewalk. My friend asked, “What are you looking for?” “A trash can,” I replied. He snatched the empty cup from me and dropped it on the ground. Problem solved.

Now its not that there aren’t any trash cans in the city. You’ll find a few scattered around if you look hard enough. The problem is, no one, myself included, ever does. Trash cans may seem like a minor issue in a country suffering from power shortages, terrorism, unemployment and hunger (although those last three might have the same root cause), but their effect on citizens’ morale offers exponential returns on the cost of implementation. And it’s easy.

The philosopher Thomas Aquinas linked neatness (or rather the lack of it) to the imperfections that separate us from perfection as embodied by God’s messengers. Plato linked consciousness of order and disorder in ones surroundings with consciousness of other issues that inhabit the human spirit, such as morality.

That’s not to say that a limited absence of order implies immorality, after all some of the greatest minds in history were noted for having disorganised workspaces. However, those same great minds sat and contemplated their thoughts around clean, often very public places, like parks, and even sidewalks.

Orderly surroundings also have an important role in feng shui, the ancient Chinese system of aesthetics. Orderly surroundings are a means to inner peace, and everyone knows we need that badly. Just imagine walking around Supermarket, Jinnah or Karachi Company, especially Karachi Company, and not seeing and smelling garbage right next to, well everywhere!

We are always quick to state that people will not use trash cans because they are illiterate. Now in my experience, it doesn’t take a doctorate to understand the task of dropping trash in a box instead of on the floor. And I doubt that fast food leftovers that came flying out from that sedan next to me last night was thrown out by a poor person, unless female drivers in western clothing are taking over the chauffeuring industry.

Keeping the city clean is never an easy job without help from the citizenry, and that seemed quite obvious at Lake View Park a few days back. With neigh a candy wrapper or plastic bag in sight, the park area offered what it was always meant to---a clean, green area for people to picnic or just absorb the scenery.

Although littering laws may be credited for the cleanliness, I would like to think that basic civic sense, an offshoot of various awareness campaigns by the city administration and the media, deserve more plaudits than the Rs300 fine.

Trash cans won’t solve our problems, but at least they offer a viable solution to a problem that can be solved. All we need is a little investment, a little marketing to create public awareness, and of course, enhanced fines for those of us who only follow the law when it saves us money (just look at the new fines for graffiti, which start at a paltry Rs50).

Whenever someone takes the initiative to bring positive change in this country they are shot down (sometimes literally), but this is hopefully not an issue that will bring people to arms. Just remember, if you take a positive step, somebody is bound to follow.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Maryam | 12 years ago | Reply you are probably the first person saying that about islamabad. plus i dont agree with you coz CDA just cannot place a trash can every 1 m away and you should have kept a bin bag in your car( thats the normal practice) , put ur trash in it n when u reach office/home/uni etc just take some steps in throw that bin bag in the bin ....simple :)
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