Wasting resources is a ‘feat’ in which Pakistanis excel in a myriad of ways but surely, one of the biggest, most criminal wastes ever is that of…yes….waste itself!
The amount of solid waste generated throughout the country on a daily basis is astronomical, certainly running into thousands, maybe even millions of tonnes. Most of this gunk is simply dumped in any convenient place by those who generate it. In the rare event of it being collected by the authorities, it is hauled away to dumping grounds and, despite the toxic fumes thus generated, burnt without any thought of societal or environmental consequences.
The society, which generates this incredible amount of waste material is at the same time — and quite rightly so — up in arms against the monumental amount of loadshedding that has become part and parcel of the daily grind over the last few years. With temperatures heating up to furnace point, tempers will soon be exploding with potentially lethal results and yet these related issues can both so easily and productively be resolved.
In the saner parts of Asia, right next door in India for example, waste material of all kinds is increasingly being collected and used to fuel indigenously built, highly efficient, biomass and biogas plants which generate a surprising amount of electricity without the use of any oil-based fuel at all. These power plants vary in size according to the amount of waste being generated in the vicinity, as well as the amount of electricity required by households, industry and other power users in the area. A city may have quite a number of such plants scattered around, providing uninterrupted, low cost power to all-comers around the clock, irrespective of weather conditions. The construction of such plants is not a difficult prospect and once operational, they can kill two birds with one stone: provision of affordable power combined with environmental cleanup on a massive scale.
It cannot be a difficult prospect to design and build such plants in Pakistan even if foreign expertise is required in the initial stages. Although as we already have a number of commercial biogas power production units operating in Punjab, we do appear to have the brains to initiate such a project ourselves if the authorities concerned can get their act together for once. As belated as it is, someone should have come up with such a project years ago, which now has become a dire necessity.
It must be stressed that if correctly designed and meticulously constructed and operated, biomass and biogas power production units do not result in any form of atmospheric pollution and neither do they, contrary to popular belief, emit nasty odours. As with any operation of extreme importance, impeccably high standards are maintained right from waste collection through to actual power production and distribution; if optimum efficiency is to be maintained all the way along the line, there is no room for the lackadaisical attitude generally accepted as the norm here.
The most recent available figures indicate that the country currently has a power shortfall of approximately 5,600 MW daily and this will rise steadily as temperatures soar. Obviously, it is not possible to construct waste-eating biomass and biogas power production units overnight, but with dedicated effort they could go a very long way in resolving the problems of loadshedding and environmental degradation in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2012.
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