Uncertainty hits LWMC work in city

Contracts with foreign firms set to end in December


Afzal Talib October 10, 2020
Workers of Lahore Waste Management Company busy in removing the garbage as Punjab government launched modern and organized system of cleanliness in the Provincial Capital City with the collaboration of Turk companies. PHOTO: APP

LAHORE:

Foreign garbage collection companies have resumed their service in the city after partial payment of their dues but differences remain over the total amount and the cleanliness operation may be affected in future. The waste management company has not yet made arrangements to permanently deal with the situation. Thousands of tonnes of garbage remain on the city's roads, neighbourhoods and markets, causing stench.

The Lahore Waste Management Company was set up by the previous government to maintain cleanliness in the city and collect garbage. The responsibility was assigned to foreign companies Albayrak and Ozpak, with whom things had been going well for 10 years. However, the contract is set to expire on December 30 and the companies are trying to get their money as soon as possible. On the other hand, in the light of objections raised in forensic audit reports, the waste management company has withheld more than Rs2.5 billion of the two companies.

The matter is still pending as no decision has been taken by the company board, secretary local governments and finance department. Garbage collection was stopped several times by the companies and resumed after payment. With a few weeks of the agreement remaining, the companies are not buying new vehicles to collect trash, nor repairing old vehicles. Two weeks ago, due to non-payment by the waste management company, the Albayrak Company, whose nearly 400 small and large vehicles have broken down and reached the workshop, withheld the salaries of 300 drivers and helpers. Employees protested and refused to run the remaining vehicles. As a result, garbage could not be collected from the streets, bazaars and roads.

Garbage began to pile up everywhere in Lahore, with at least 15,000 tonnes of trash spread throughout the city. Citizens complained of breathing problems due to stench. After this, the waste management company paid over Rs170 million to the contractor. It also indicated that if the work did not resume, it would take care of the service itself by enforcing emergency. Initially, the company started collecting garbage from the roads using government vehicles. The board also allowed hiring of vehicles because of the shortage, after which the company slowly started collecting garbage from the city.

However. it is estimated that about 8,000 tonnes of garbage in many areas of the city has not been lifted, causing problems for the citizens. The waste management company has not come up with a strategy after the agreement expires at the end of the current year. The company has had four MDs during the past year. The new management, which was tasked with cleaning up the city as soon as it took office, has begun work in consultation with the contractor firms. In the past 10 years, garbage collection companies have taken more than Rs80 billion, but have not made any assets. More than Rs72 billion will be spent in the next seven years if the foreign companies are given the contract again.

A suggestion was reportedly sent to the Punjab Local Government Department that the cleaning operation can be carried out by the government with vehicles worth Rs6 billion by bearing the expenses of the salaries. This will cost Rs34 billion in seven years, saving Rs38 billion with the vehicles ad assets. Commenting on the situation, MD Lahore Waste Management Company Imran Ali Sultan said the issue of garbage collection from the city had come to light as soon as he took charge. He said the backlog of garbage lifting was being cleared and the whole city would be cleaned within a week. Replying to a question, he said the decision regarding who would pick up the garbage had to be made by the board and the Punjab government. "Whatever they decide, we will implement it," he added.

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