Landfill blues: CDA claims about new garbage dump trashed

Chairman says delays not a source of worry; insiders say homework has not even started.


Danish Hussain July 17, 2014

ISLAMABAD: January 2, 2014. The new year had just dawned, and city managers had offered people hope by telling the highest court in the land that it would resolve garbage dumping problems by developing a permanent site to “scientifically” dump nearly 700 metric tons of garbage every day.  

The assurance came after the Supreme Court took notice of illegal dumping of city waste at the foothills of the Margallas in Sector D-12.

“The planning wing has started selection of sites suitable for development of a landfill in consultation with the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency,” said a reply submitted in court by the CDA.

But in the CDA, it seems not a creature was stirring.

On Wednesday, almost six-and-a-half-month after the assurance to the apex court, CDA Chairman Maroof Afzal was asked how far the selection process had gotten. His reply was, “The CDA is in process of selection of site for developing a proper landfill site in consultation with the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency.”

In the space of six months, the only change seems to be a few words in the explanatory sentence.

According to the chairman, there is no need to worry just because the selection process is taking longer than usual.

“The CDA is currently dumping waste in Sector I-12, but will not do so for long as it plans to develop [a site] in Sector I-12,” Afzal said, adding there were three proposed sites under consideration.

On the flip side, CDA insiders claim there has been no development on the authority’s part and the “in process of site selection” statement is a stock answer used by senior officials to brush aside the question.

“The court was assured that the CDA will approach organisations working on environment protection to preparing a plan for a possible dump and a recycling facility,” said a planning wing official. He then explained that the CDA has not even spoken to anyone about recycling yet.

Meanwhile, the CDA sets tons of garbage on fire in Sector I-12 every day, and even at night, thick plumes of smoke make their way to adjoining localities and a significant portion of IJP Road, an informal divider between Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

As the residents of these areas are not as influential as those of Sector D-12, they usually do not complain, barring two or three early protest demos held when the authority started dumping garbage.

The CDA report given to the apex court offered a comprehensive and workable plan of action involving eight short and long terms actions to cope with the issue.

The records suggest that the authority has deliberately been delaying establishment of proper landfill. In the late 80s, the authority started dumping garbage in sector H-12 and continued the practice till 2006. It then shifted to Sector H-11.

After Islamabad High Court orders that the site be shifted, it was moved to I-14 in 2010. Later, the site was shifted to Sector I-12 in 2011 and to Sector D-12 in 2013. After the apex court notice in January, it was moved back to Sector I-12.

The CDA estimates that of the 700 metric tons of garbage generated by Islamabad every day, about 91 per cent is household and green waste, while the rest is mostly plastics, glass and construction material.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2014.

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