Cleaning up Karachi, brick by brick

The UNDP's global environment facility has invented a machine that makes bricks of solid waste


Our Correspondent April 21, 2015
Two young boys collect garbage in the city. The waste generated by the metropolis is one of the biggest challenges facing its administration, but the UNDP may have a solution. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: The waste generated by Karachi is one of the biggest challenges for its administration. It could be addressed if an innovative idea by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) of the United Nations Development Programme is implemented.

The GEF team has invented a machine that makes bricks of solid waste. Ideally, these bricks can be used for housing but, according to the national programme manager of the GEF's small grants programme, Masood Ahmed Lohar, they can also be used as combustible fuel.

"Let's discuss the idea," offered Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui. "We'll go forward and implement the idea in Karachi, if it really works," he told The Express Tribune. He added that he had asked the GEF team to coordinate with his team and share more details of the programme within two days. "I'll remind them about the project proposal myself, if they delay," he smiled, adding that he was more concerned about the environmental issues of the city.

Participants at the one-day consultative workshop on the GEF Pakistan's national portfolio were ecstatic about the idea. The workshop, organised by the Federal Ministry of Climate Change, was held at the Marriott hotel on Tuesday. The audience comprised officials of the federal, Sindh and Balochistan governments and representatives of various non-government organisations.

They were briefed about the two types of brick-making machines. The manual prototype has a capacity of manufacturing around 200 bricks a day, while the automatic one, operated by two persons, can produce around 2,000 bricks a day. "The capacity can be improved, if needed," said Lohar.

Addressing the gathering, Siddiqui said that the government had been unable to manage the issue of solid waste. He added that the issue had aggravated with the rapid industrialisation over the last 25 years.

"The waste issue is a challenge for us all," he said. "It is time we addressed it. A better environment ensures an improved law and order situation too," he added. He requested the participants to help the Karachi administration tackle issues such as environment, climate change and solid waste.

Forest and environment

Speaking to The Express Tribune, the federal secretary for climate change, Arif Ahmed Khan, said that the provincial forest ministries were responsible for forestation. "It is not our [federal government's] duty." He said that the demand for fuel had increased due to overpopulation, adding that provincial governments were doing nothing in this regard.

The federal inspector general of the forest department, Syed Nasir Mehmood, said that instead of relying on non-government organisations, it was time to build the capacities of the provinces. He said that land degradation was increasing. It was 15 per cent in 1991 and had risen to 25 per cent in 2011.

"Around 80 per cent of the rural population depends on fuel wood," said Lohar. He revealed that in coastal areas of Sindh, people used plastics in lieu of wood. "Plastic is being used in Badin and parts of Balochistan. It is an alarming situation."

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2015. 

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