KARACHI: Three years since its inception, the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) continues to struggle to perform the functions it was constituted for.
While the board has improved garbage collection and disposal to some extent in some areas, political and administrative hurdles have so far kept it from undertaking all its responsibilities. As it stands, the body has yet to expand operations to districts beyond Karachi.
Under the SSWMB Act passed by the Sindh Assembly in 2014, the board had to take over waste management services of local councils, impose and collect taxes and other charges on waste management services, execute commercial or business enterprise projects for the benefit of waste management and launch schemes to generate energy from solid waste. By the end of 2016, however, it could only manage to start garbage collection and disposal services.
These operations too began from just two of Karachi’s districts – South and East – by entering into an agreement with a Chinese firm. While SSWMB managed to expand its operations to District West and Malir, it had to cancel the contract with the former after the Chinese contractor failed to deliver satisfactory services. The cancellation occurred while SSWMB was expanding its operations further into District Central and Korangi.
When it came to the remaining tasks SSWMB was bound by law to perform, the body fell victim to the rivalry between Pakistan Peoples Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. Under the SSWMB Act, the board was to be headed by the chief minister with the mayor of Karachi as an ex-officio member.
With Murad Ali Shah of PPP as the chief minister and MQM’s Waseem Akhtar as Karachi mayor, the board became tied up in the bigger tussle between the parties. In fact, Akhtar filed a petition in the Sindh High Court against the establishment of SSWMB soon after the body began its operations.
Even within Karachi, the ambit of SSWMB is far from absolute as certain areas are beyond the city administration’s control and administrated directly by cantonment boards or federal government bodies like the Karachi Port Trust, Civil Aviation Authority and Pakistan Railways. The law gives SSWMB jurisdiction only over areas under local councils’ administrative control.
There are six cantonments in Karachi, namely the Karachi Cantonment, Clifton Cantonment, Faisal Cantonment, Malir Cantonment, Korangi and Manora cantonments. Garbage collection duties in these areas and others administered by federal bodies are managed by their own administrations, prompting complaints by SSWMB officials that the waste they gather is not disposed at designated landfills.
“Between 12,000 and 14,000 tonnes of garbage are generated daily in Karachi. Last year, cantonment areas alone generate 3,000 tonnes daily,” said SSWMB Media Deputy Director Almas Saleem.
“[But] garbage collection services in cantonments are not disposing waste at designated landfill sites even though it is their duty to do so,” said SSWMB Managing Director AD Sajnani. When asked where the waste from cantonments is dumped, he advised The Express Tribune to approach cantonment authorities.
Cantonment officials, however, did not respond to the query despite repeated contact attempts. The Express Tribune was either told that the concerned public relations officer was unavailable or told to contact the officer of Director Military Lands and Cantonments. The latter’s personal assistant, in turn, referred The Express Tribune back to cantonment authorities.
According to Dr Sajnani, garbage collection and disposal operation comprises three steps: front-end sweeping, transfer to garbage transfer stations and then to landfill sites. Presently the city has two landfill sites, namely Jam Chakro and Gondpass. “Neither of these is a proper landfill, but we are working to develop them to international standards. Presently, these are just dumping grounds,” he said.
Illegal encroachments on garbage transfer stations are another problem SSWMB currently faces. Of the six stations available in the city, the board controls only two, situated at Dhobi Ghat in District South and EBM in District East. These, like the remain four stations located in Sohrab Goth, Landhi and near Mehran Highway and Mewa Shah graveyard, were also plagued by illegal encroachments and cleared only due to Supreme Court intervention.
Just like the stations, the landfill sites also face the threat of encroachments, said Dr Sajnani. “For this reason, we have started constructing boundary walls,” he said.
The SSWMB MD confirmed that the District West garbage collection contract with the Chinese firm is being cancelled due to its unsatisfactory performance. “The firm has been issued a final termination notice. A new contractor will be hired after completing necessary formalities. SSWMB will also start operations in Korangi and District Central soon,” he added.
Responding to a question, Dr Sajnani said SSWMB also plans to develop a third landfill site in Karachi and has received 3,000 acres in Dhabeji, Thatta district from the Sindh government for this purpose. SSWMB is also in contact with the provincial government for acquiring land in Jamshoro, Sehwan and Sukkur to establish landfills.
When asked about progress on solid waste based power plants, he said they are working on setting up 50MW waste-to-energy power project in Karachi. “Feasibility is being prepared in this regard. 600MW waste to energy projects could be established in Karachi but the Federal government allows only 50MW plants,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2019.