Nabinagar Society at West Sholashar was supposed to lead the way for modern waste management in Chattogram. The Chattogram City Corporation (CCC), in collaboration with two development agencies, initiated a pilot project to this end in the area four months ago. So far, there has been seemingly little progress in implementing it and stakeholders blame the city corporation for the failure.
This is not a one-off precedent of mismanagement by the local government body. Since its establishment nearly 32 years ago, the CCC has not been able to bring onboard a modern waste management system in the port city.
In the case of the project in Nabinagar Society, the CCC signed an agreement with YPSA and Save the Children to jointly implement it. There were plans to launch similar projects in 41 wards of Chattogram city if the pilot project bore fruit.
Nabinagar Society was chosen as the 'ideal village' for modern waste management. CCC Mayor MdRezaul Karim Chowdhury inaugurated the project on 1 December last year. That was also the last time any city corporation officials set foot in the area.
According to YPSA officials, the city corporation did not hold up to its end of the bargain which includes installing dustbins, covering the open drains with slabs.
According to the agreement, the city corporation was supposed to form a 10-15 member waste management team to ensure regular waste collection. That has not happened. Instead, YPSA had to form a team of volunteers to collect household waste.
Visiting the Nabinagar area recently, this correspondent saw piles of waste laying on the ground in open areas, including in drains without slabs.
Elias Mia Talukder, president of the Nabinagar Development Committee, told The Business Standard, "A total of 80 dustbins were supposed to be installed in the area. YPSA has given 40, but the city corporation is yet to arrange the rest of it as it was supposed to. Slabs were not installed over the drains as well.
He added, "There has been mismanagement regarding waste collection too. Household waste, which was to be removed within stipulated time by city corporation workers, are often not collected even though all households are charged Tk150 for the service."
Sanjida Akhtar, a project coordinator of YPSA, told TBS, "CCC has not been able to install a single dustbin in the last four months. However, some discipline in the household waste collection has returned due to activities of the volunteer team formed by YPSA."
No category-based waste management
Chittagong City Corporation is tasked with three main activities—waste management, street lighting and infrastructural development of Chattogram. But the port city, which is also called the commercial capital of the country, is yet to see a category-based waste management system.
In addition to general waste, infectious and hazardous wastes – medical, industrial, e-waste are also being managed traditionally.
According to the instructions of the Department of Environment (DoE), all factories must have a hazardous effluent treatment plant (ETP) for treating wastewater. (ETP). But most of the factories in the city do not have any such plants.
According to sources, factories are often fined for violating the DoE regulation, but such measures have not been able to bring much effective change. As a result, a massive amount of industrial waste is still dumped directly into drains, which flow into the rivers and sea, threatening biodiversity.
Currently, Chattogram has two garbage stations where all the waste ends up. One of them is at Arefinnagar in the BayazidBostami area, and the other one is in Anandabazar area of Halishahar. But due to a lack of a proper management system, the stations have turned into small hills of garbage, with the height of the Halishahar garbage dump being approximately 300 feet.
In a positive move, the CCC has installed an incinerator plant in the Anandabazar area to dispose of and treat medical waste earlier this year.
But, the plant is inadequate to treat the huge amount of medical waste produced each day in Chattogram. According to sources, the plant is capable of treating 3 tonnes of waste per day while the amount of medical waste produced each day is more than 5 tonnes.
Handing over waste management to the private sector
The CCC has recently decided to hand over waste management to the private sector. The Standing Committee of CCC has recently approved a proposal in this regard.
However, locals are concerned that the move will force them to pay additional charges for waste collection on top of the taxes they pay for it.
Shahana Akhter, a resident and school teacher in the Chandgaon area of the city, said, "According to the Local Government Act (2009), the city corporation will collect and remove garbage from all roads, public toilets, urinals, sewers, buildings and places under its control. For this, the citizens are paying taxes. If they give this job to the private sector, what will they do? "
When asked about it, Mubarak Ali, chairman of the Standing Committee for Waste Management, CCC, said, "The city corporation has taken a policy decision to privately manage the waste in all the areas where door-to-door waste management service is yet to start. If the city dwellers do not want to pay the fee for it, they will have to bring the waste in the dustbin of the corporation."
Sewage goes to the river through drains
One of the most hazardous impacts of waste mismanagement is toxic waste getting mixed in rivers. The ChattogramWasa is responsible for the disposal of sewage disposal in Chattogram. However, the organisation has not been able to properly carry out its duty in this regard in the last 58 years of its existence.
At present, 539 cubic metres of human waste is deposited in septic tanks daily. Of which, 15 cubic metres and 20 cubic metres of waste are deposited under the management of CCC and NGO DushthaShasthya Kendra (DSK), respectively. The ChattogramWasa has no sewerage system of its own. As a result, the rest of the waste flows to the Karnafuli and Halda rivers through city canals.
Faecal sludge of about 30,000 poorly constructed toilets and 60,000 sanitary latrines from the slum dwellers of the metropolis are dumped directly into the drains, according to Md Ismail Hossain, manager of ChattogramSebaSangstha, a private agency that collects waste on behalf of CCC.
Admitting the matter, ChattogramWasa's Managing Director Engineer AKM Fazlullah said, "Chattogram is a 500 years old city. All the waste from the city flows to the Bay of Bengal through Karnafuli and Halda rivers. It is harmful to the environment and human health. Work has started on the first catchment of a sewerage master plan by ChattogramWasa. Donors are also interested in financing the other five and are working on feasibility studies."
About 7 million people are living in the port city at present. ChattogramWasa formulated the sewerage master plan for the city's waste management in 2017.
According to Chattogram Sheba Sangstha, if this master plan is implemented, Wasa will be able to involve 8.9 million people in its central management.