Guests outside the house of Dr Anwar Butt in Sector G-9/1 were baffled by a smell akin to short-circuiting wires emanating from across his house.
Wearing a breathing mask, Dr Butt welcomed his guests and informed them that a private contractor of the capital’s civic agency had been using an age-old solution to garbage disposal — burning it on site.
The doctor, who has been wearing the mask constantly for many days, said an illegal dumping site was located some 200 yards from his house along a seasonal stream.
Dr Butt is among many local residents affected by the fumes emanating from dumping sites where the contractors set ablaze domestic waste. He, along with others, moved the Federal Ombudsman against this illegal activity in January 2012, when a similar situation arose.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) had assured the ombudsman that the “needful action will be taken and such incidents will never happen again.” The practice stopped soon after the ombudsman’s directives to the civic agency’s assurance.
“Almost three weeks ago, the same private contractor resumed this illegal activity,” said Butt. The area residents had lodged several complaints with the CDA against the contractor, but to no avail, he added.
Dryness of the mouth, itching of the eyes, severe cough and asthma are just some of the problems faced by the residents of sector G-9/1, according to a fresh application submitted by Butt to the ombudsman.
“Clouds of toxic gas and foul odours are not only polluting the environment, but also causing sleepless nights for many,” the application stated, calling for urgent action by the federal complaint body against the authority’s contractors.
Smoke and fumes from burning garbage badly affects people with sensitive respiratory systems, especially children and the elderly, according to Dr Saim Ali Soomro, a specialist in critical care at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.
He said garbage burning near residential areas can cause a number of lung-related diseases, as well as rashes, nausea and headaches.
Fumes which contain dioxin, lead and carbon monoxide elements are especially harmful to pregnant women and children, Dr Soomro said.
He added that due to the severity of its adverse effects on human health and the environment, garbage burning is considered a crime in developed countries.
CDA bylaws prohibit the open burning of garbage. However, the laws provision for a meagre fine on violators as a punitive measure.
The CDA has outsourced the collection and disposal of solid waste in six residential sectors — G-6, G-7, G-8, G-9, G-10 and I-10 — to private contractors. Residential areas in the remaining sectors are managed by the authority’s sanitation wing.
Contractors are paid millions to collect and dispose of waste at Sector I-12 dumping site. However, in order to lower their transportation costs, private contractors dump garbage along seasonal streams across the city, while setting ablaze the leftover garbage along their banks to remove evidence.
“Action is taken against private contractors whenever such activity is brought to the notice,” CDA spokesperson Ramzan Sajid said.
The agency imposes heavy fines on contractors for such illegal activities and addresses complaints of residents promptly, he added.
The spokesperson said sanitation officers would visit Sector G-9/1 to confirm the residents’ complaints, and promised action against the contractor, if found guilty.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2015.