IN A discreditable course of event, the Dhaka North City Corporation threw garbage on clean road to inaugurate a cleanliness campaign. The city authorities on March 17 organised the special cleanliness drive and mural art campaign near Tejgaon. As part of the preparation from the morning, city authorities staff cleaned the nearby roads and sprinkled bleaching powder to deter foul smell. Later, the staff returned with waste papers and garbage and threw them on the freshly cleaned road to create a stage for the campaign inauguration by the mayor. Later around noon, the mayor, along with student volunteers, inaugurated the programme by cleaning road that was made dirty for him. In response to media queries, city officials said that they were just following orders. Student volunteers who participated in the drive are also reported to have said that citizens do not want to see such an ostentatious act, and special drives; they rather want every day cleaning services and proper management of garbage.
A city rife with littering problem has seen similar showy efforts from the authorities. In April 2018, the Dhaka South City Corporation’s Dhaka cleanliness campaign set a Guinness Book of World record in the category for ‘Most people sweeping the floor (single venue)’. Meanwhile, the city continues to remain unclean with open garbage cans. Authorities are found most active in their cleanliness drive after Eid-ul-Adha or when and if there is an outbreak of infectious disease in the capital; cleanliness services are sloppy and unreliable, otherwise. The authorities do not have an effective household waste collection or recycling policy. According to the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, there are about 1 lakh waste pickers in the capital, most of whom are teenagers and not regular staff of the corporations. They are poorly paid and inadequately equipped for the job. In 2018, DNCC figures put its per capita waste collection per day at 0.513 kilograms. The figure for the DSCC was 0.56 kilograms. Commercial waste, industrial waste, food waste, plastic, glass, paper, hazardous waste such as paint, batteries and cleaning solvent all end up at the landfill. More and more waste are generated every day and little being done in recycling and the separation of waste has led to an unsustainable use of landfill sites, which are easily exhausted every few years. Without a comprehensive strategy and action plan, such ostentatious act and periodic cleanliness drive will not be able to keep the city clean and hygienic.
The city undoubtedly needs a comprehensive waste management plan that will include the separation of waste and recycling policy with special programmes for e-waste. To make this plan effective, the waste picker’s labour must be institutionally recognised. Citizens too have a role to play in making the city clean by discouraging littering and following relevant regulations.
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