Call for tapping waste-to-energy opportunities

Survey reveals 52% of households believe domestic waste is not hazardous

Our Correspondent April 20, 2024
Hospital waste lying in the open. PHOTO: SHABBIR MIR/EXPRESS/FILE


Speakers at a stakeholders’ dialogue on solutions to open waste burning have demanded the government and all quarters concerned to come up with enhanced mobilisation efforts focusing on youth engagement to stir solutions for open waste- burning leading to serious health issues.

The Institute of Urbanism (IoU) with the support of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) held a dialogue titled “Ending Open Waste Burning in Islamabad: A Dialogue on Sustainable Urban Waste Management” the other day.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, the SDPI’s Executive Director, said there are ample examples of waste-to-energy projects in developing countries who are capitalising on solid waste as a resource at par with the developed world. Pakistan is energy deficient and could optimise waste-to-energy opportunities that would help manage energy security and resource management within one intervention, he added.

Dr Suleri underlined that waste management in the peri-urban and town areas of the country was difficult. However, Islamabad has been chosen for the dialogue to highlight the woes of waste mismanagement in urban areas that could help understand the extent of mismanagement in the solid waste sector across the country.

Read more: 'Just staggering': UN says households waste 1b meals a day

Dr Ejaz Ahmed, the Senior Programme Fellow at IoU, said there is hardly any waste disposal system across the country, whereas, the issue of smog is basically due to the burning of rice stubble. "Islamabad is better but only its 60-70% waste is being managed while the rest is burnt in streets and open places which is highly injurious to health due to dangerous emissions from plastic burning and other materials," he said.

Syeda Shazia Adeel from the National Institute of Health (NIH) said waste burning resulted in the spewing of carcinogenic fumes and pathogens causing serious diseases. However, the Institute could contribute to data sharing, surveillance, research, organise workshops, and build comprehensive plans to cope with it and develop policy plans.

Dr Mansoor Ali from the Royal Academy of Engineering UK said there was a great opportunity for mutual learning between India and Pakistan under RAE projects on waste management research. "The IoU has a crucial opportunity to engage with politicians to guide them through their evidence and data as an active phase of the waste management sector is going on," he said. He noted that peripheral burning was another issue that was very challenging in the capital's vicinity and Rawalpindi. "We need to promote mutual partnerships for learning and beyond the project cooperation," he added.

Dr Abida Shareef of the FJWU, who is leading an integrated solid waste management project, said she had surveyed 11,000 households through the door-to-door campaign. She said that 52% of the survey respondents believed household waste is not hazardous, 53% of the respondents believed that it couldn’t be segregated, 58% of the respondents thought it was not illegal to burn waste, whereas 47% thought it was a smart way to burn and manage waste.

Aqsa Arshad, a Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) student running in campus compost facility making eco-organic fertilizer, said the varsity’s campus site near Margalla Hills National Park had excess vegetation throughout the year, whereas the plants and leaves were cut and burnt at the site or dumped into the nearby streams causing serious pollution.

Also read: Subsidiary boards to oversee waste collection, disposal

Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Director Dr Zaigham Abbass said a dedicated study on ambient pollutants impacting sanitary workers, who are impacted due to open waste burning, is necessary as they are directly exposed to it. Charlie Fenn of Royal Engineering Academy appreciated the IoU and SDPI for organising the dialogue on a critical topic of great social importance.


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