Ricksaaf: For those hard to reach places in Karachi, a rickshaw that wants your trash

Published: February 29, 2012
For those hard to reach places in Karachi, a rickshaw that wants your trash.

For those hard to reach places in Karachi, a rickshaw that wants your trash.


The rick-saaf is a combination of a rickshaw and a garbage truck that can collect waste from those hard to reach places where the onus is generally left to the scavenger.

“There used to be a time when we used to have daily door-to-door garbage collection where I live,” says entrepreneur Khayam Husain, “now we don’t even have a proper dumpster in my neighborhood. The closest one in Clifton Block 5 is on Mai Kolachi.”

Husain’s own neighborhood and his work in Sindh’s flooded areas with the Karachi Relief Trust inspired him to find solutions for waste management. “A lot of our urban centres in Sindh are actually just slums because of the waste management system. I wanted to design a vehicle that could get into small areas.”

The prototype Husain’s company Autocom has designed takes a rickshaw and adds a steel container that can take up to 200kg. This, then, operates through hydraulics with an independent power pack that uses a separate car battery, which doesn’t put any strain on the engine or fuel consumption. He adds that it is a simple system that can be operated by virtually anyone.

A final price hasn’t been set yet but Husain says it costs approximately Rs400,000 to produce it with the hydraulic system accounting for Rs100,000 of the entire cost. His company can produce up to 50 units a day but this can be scaled up if required.

A household in Karachi produces an average of 2.5kg of waste everyday, which means that a single Ricksaaf could do the trick for a 100 houses in a single trip.

“We would like the government to [think about] a complete programme with us that also includes the scavengers,” says Husain. “My strategy is to include all stakeholders and devise a means so that their [scavengers] livelihoods are not threatened.”

About 55,000 families depend on garbage picking, according to a 2010 report on solid waste management for Karachi that was co-authored by Muhammad Khalid. He is an environmental engineer working with the Sindh government. He warns of the risks scavengers put themselves at to do their job.

“The kids picking up garbage become mobile carriers of infectious diseases the way that trash is thrown around these days,” he says. Thirty per cent of the city’s waste comes from hospitals and out of this a small percentage is infectious. Unfortunately, these children and adults are doing a job that the city government should be doing.

“We would like the government to facilitate a complete programme with us that also includes the scavengers,” argues Husain, who believes that there are ways to include them so that their livelihood isn’t threatened.

There should be more than enough work for everyone as Karachi produces an estimated 9,000 tons of waste daily. Out of which only 4,500 is lifted and only a little over 2,000 tons make it to the designated landfills in Deh Jam Chakro and Gondpass.

According to Khalid’s report, the city has 12,000 sanitary workers and about 4,100 garbage bins but this is not enough and as a result uncollected garbage is rotting in the open or is burnt. “Most waste lies on the street and is dispersed before it is picked up because of the wind or rain [which rot it],” Khalid says. He points out that this means that the moisture content is lost and thus we lose out on the potential for producing bio-gas or fertiliser from the waste.

Part of the problem is also that the landfill sites are at long distances from the city and only about 300 out of 1,500 trips by garbage trucks end up doing the job properly.

“The government needs to come forward and invest in such programmes,” argues Khalid. “This is a low-cost solution that is more efficient than the same service being provided by boys on donkey-carts.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Feb 29, 2012 - 6:20AM

    This is great. Good job.


  • Pakistani First
    Feb 29, 2012 - 6:54AM

    The entrepreneurial Pakistani mind. Bring some semblance of law and order here and we shall rise to unprecedented heights.


  • Balma
    Feb 29, 2012 - 7:20AM

    I am impressed. Someone noticed a problem, and then actually tried to come up with a solution. Totally unBalma’stic!


  • Citizen
    Feb 29, 2012 - 9:42AM

    Great initiative . I wish Government appreciate this step and invest in it , rather than carrying out dirty politics 24/7.


  • Rabia Rafiq
    Feb 29, 2012 - 10:47AM

    You think people will like to travel with loads of garbage at their backs? Unbelievable.


  • Feb 29, 2012 - 11:34AM

    Khayam Bhai, tussi chah gayay ho. Do share the progress on the deployment of this vehicle. And if you can, devise a system so ‘gharib’ people can induct themselves in a program and become a dumpster driver (NIC required). Then everyone reading Express Tribune can tell their chowkidars and massis to get their jobless relatives enrolled in this program. But you’re right, not at the expense of scavengers’ livelihoods!


  • Tilsim
    Feb 29, 2012 - 12:39PM

    It has export potential to South Asia!


  • sana
    Feb 29, 2012 - 1:08PM

    I am a bouncy-ball of hope and optimism after reading this article. This is the perfect social enterprise – solving a real problem with a local solution that uses technology, helps the environment, creates employment and empowers disadvantaged street children! Hope we see RickSaafs all over Karachi soon!


  • Omer
    Feb 29, 2012 - 2:02PM

    Excellent! this should be scaled!

    But i guess the author meant 50 units a MONTH…and not per day…!??


  • Ozymandias
    Feb 29, 2012 - 3:50PM

    Love these kind of stories!!


  • Mosiqar
    Feb 29, 2012 - 5:43PM

    This a supper excellent idea. I will suggest to modify it. Supply a specific bag can take up to 5 kg of garbage and charge them a minimum price of Rs 2.00 per bag. Municipality should provide a transfer station where these bag can be dumps and disposed to garbage area. Those who do not want to send thru this garbage services can take their garbage direct to dump station. Many small city provide this kind of services in the West.



  • MyHeartSpeaks
    Feb 29, 2012 - 5:57PM

    Any technology will be doomed in a country like Pakistan, if there is no prevail of law and order, and justice. Law and order first, then any technology, otherwise, remember what happened to Green Buses.


  • Imran Ehsan
    Feb 29, 2012 - 9:19PM

    This is ingenius. Desperately needs recognition and promotion on goverment as well as private level


  • Ex-Gujju
    Feb 29, 2012 - 9:40PM

    Necessity is mother of invention is proven again. Good job and best of luck Mr.Khayam Husain, we need to promote sanitation in sub-continent.


  • Ex-Gujju
    Feb 29, 2012 - 9:42PM

    @Rabia Rafiq:
    This are not passenger vehicles, they are modified to carry load(trash) where passenger seats would be.


  • ASR
    Feb 29, 2012 - 10:16PM

    He needs to patent it. Pakistan needs people like Mr. Hussain. Bravo! For thinking outside the box and coming up with brilliant solution.


  • Nj
    Mar 5, 2012 - 11:28AM

    Great initiative :D but where will the trash go? Into the sea?


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