Recent reports suggest that the World Bank has agreed to work with the Sindh government to make the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) more effective. The news that Sindh has a garbage collection body comes as a surprise for many Pakistanis. Most people, who have had the pleasure of passing by the Korangi River, would dismiss the report as fake news, but it is true. The SSWMB is indeed a real organisation with real staff. It is just difficult to prove whether or not it actually does any work. The board has had more than enough time to become effective, yet it has been unable to expand beyond Karachi. Little surprise that even the courts have been unimpressed by its performance.
The agreement with the World Bank would increase SSWMB’s capacity in a phased expansion across Sindh. The first phase would see work start in divisional headquarters and then in district headquarters. It is highly unfortunate that even this had not been initiated by the incumbent provincial government, which has ruled the province for over a decade. The World Bank’s country chief has said that solid waste management experts will help the Sindh government prepare a detailed plan to improve the body in terms of management and efficiency in solid waste disposal, while also making it self-sufficient. This will be challenging, as media reports suggest the board has outsourced much of its work in Karachi to Chinese companies at several times the rates charged by local operators.
The performance of the foreign companies also comes into question as the garbage problems that have plagued the city for years are still very much there. As for shifting garbage to dumps, half of the city’s garbage transfer stations are not even operational, according to a media report last month. Also, the previous SSWMB head had claimed that the board had been given less than half of its allocated budgets in the past two years, which would imply that cleanliness is not next to godliness in the eyes of the government.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2019.