Smoke rises, tolerance falls: An entire sub-sector choked by burning garbage

Published: December 28, 2011
Smoke continues to rise from the empty plot where burnt garbage was dumped in G-9/4. Photo: Muhammad Javaid

Smoke continues to rise from the empty plot where burnt garbage was dumped in G-9/4. Photo: Muhammad Javaid


A trigger-happy arsonist and a garbage dump can concoct a reeking blend. The residents of sector G-9/4, choked by smoke of burning refuse and rubbish for over a week, are bound to agree.

A local, Dr Anwar Butt, said that someone set alight a garbage trolley on a nearby street, near Rohtas Road nullah last Wednesday, billowing plumes of “toxic” smoke into the area. The smoke and the complementing foul odour made the air unbreathable and we complained to the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to extinguish the fire and dispose of the garbage, said Butt.

But instead of properly disposing of the garbage, a team of CDA’s sanitation staff removed the garbage from the trolley and scattered it about in an empty plot nearby, overlaying it with soil. The team thought their ‘master plan’ had worked, until the trapped smoke from the improperly covered burning mass began to leak out, continuing to pollute the air.

When enquired, CDA General Environment Director Dr Suleman Sheikh said the issue “does not fall under his jurisdiction”. He said the issue aggravated only because most of the agency’s sanitation staff was on leave for Christmas and timely action could not be taken.

But a senior official of the general environment department disagreed. Talking to The Express Tribune, the official, requesting not to be named, said the sanitation employees were on leave only on Christmas day and a “timely and experienced action” could have resolved the issue. He said that similar incidents have occurred in different areas of the city in the past two months and were addressed in a timely manner. He put the blame of such incidents on the negligent attitude of private contractors, who have been awarded contracts to ensure sanitation in various areas by the sanitation directorate.

Fifty years after its establishment, Islamabad, despite being the only planned city lacks a systemised garbage disposal system, or even a proper garbage dumping site. Moreover, the resident civic body does not even have adequate garbage pickup trucks to channel hundreds of tons of garbage generated across the city.

CDA Sanitation Directorate Director Captain Faiz said the civic body spends over Rs300 million every year on taking care of the capital’s waste. He said that over 800 tons of garbage generated daily in the city is collected from 1,500 trolleys and 150 skips (large size trolleys) placed in different areas across the city.

Under CDA’s Environment Protection Regulation 2008, littering is a crime and violators can be fined between Rs50 to Rs300 on the spot. CDA keeps reminding residents not to litter through anti-littering campaigns, but garbage is often seen scattered about in empty plots in residential areas, parks, avenues, green belts and near educational institutes.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2011.

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