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Forum on Urban Infrastructure and Public Service Delivery for the Urban Poor Regional Focus: Asia

Jointly sponsored by the


Comparative Urban Studies Project
Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars (WWIC)
Washington, DC. USA and the
National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA)
New Delhi, India

Dates: 24-25 June 2004


Venue: India Habitat Centre
Lodhi Road, New Delhi

SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AND THE URBAN POOR IN DHAKA

by
Nazrul Islam
Nazrul Islam is Professor, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and Chairman, Centre
for Urban Studies (CUS), Dhaka. e-mail: cus@dhaka.net
Salma A. Shafi
Architect-Planner Salma A. Shafi, Managing Director, Sheltech Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd., Bangladesh. e-mail: scpl@bdonline.com

Abstract: Dhaka City, with a population of nearly 7.5 million people produces about
4000 metric tons of solid waste everyday. Because of inefficient management, nearly
50 percent of its waste remain uncollected by the City Corporation authority. A very
large proportion (about 45%) the city’s population are poor. Waste management
system has implications for them. As receivers of waste disposal service, they enjoy
only a marginal status, while as ones involved in the collection, transportation,
disposal, recycling, reusing and composting activities in solid waste management, the
poor play very significant roles. No fewer than 100,000 people are directly associated
with the process, most of them as informal operators. However, the socio-economic
condition of the poor in waste remain precariously low. The waste management
system also needs to be improved drastically. Dhaka City Corporation is seeking help
of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to this end. The poor may
play a role in a management system to be devised.

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Forum on Urban Infrastructure and Public Service Delivery
for the Urban Poor Regional Focus: Asia
New Delhi, India, 24-25 June 2004

SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AND THE URBAN POOR IN DHAKA

by
Nazrul Islam1 and Salma A. Shafi2

INTRODUCTION

This paper addresses only the problems of Solid Waste Management (SWM),
particularly concerning the poor of Dhaka. The paper limits its focus on SWM in
Dhaka City Corporation area, rather than for the whole megacity region, mainly for
the reason of availability of usable data and information. Most of the academic and
planning studies on ‘Dhaka’ relate to central Dhaka or DCC. Henceforth, we shall
refer to the study area as “Dhaka City”. In various studies, this area is also referred to
as Dhaka Metropolitan Area (DMA) although there is a little difference between the
two, the DMA being slightly larger than DCC. The study area is introduced briefly.

Since the present paper would try to focus its attention to a large extent on the

implication of solid waste management on the urban poor or conversely on the role of

the poor on SWM, it is also necessary that we get an understanding about the urban

poor in Dhaka city.

Dhaka City: Its Growth and Problems

Dhaka to day is one of the most populous cities in the World. The 2001 Census of
Bangladesh found the population of Dhaka Statistical Metropolitan Area (DSMA) or
Dhaka Megacity Region to be 9.923 million, within its 1325 sq km limits. DSMA,
however, is an extended metropolitan region, comprising the mother city Dhaka or the
Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) area and six other medium and small municipal

1
Nazrul Islam is Professor, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and Chairman, Centre
for Urban Studies (CUS), Dhaka. e-mail: cus@dhaka.net
2
Architect-Planner Salma A. Shafi, Managing Director, Sheltech Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd., Bangladesh. e-mail: scpl@bdonline.com

2
cities/towns and vast expanses of rural entities in between the urban centres (Fig. 1).
DCC has an area of only 360 sq kms and had a population of 5.9 million (in 2001).

The population of Dhaka SMA has grown phenomenally, from less than a million in
1971 to 1.6 million is 1974, 9.92 million in 2001 and to an estimated 12 million in
mid 2004, due mainly to rural to urban migration. Even the central city, DCC, has

Fig. 1, Configuration of Dhaka

grown from less than 750,000 in 1971 to 5.9 million in 2001 and to an estimated 7.5
million in mid 2004, a tenfold increase in 33 years. Future population of Dhaka would
be 18m million in DSMA and 10 m in DCC in the year 2015.

Any large city experiencing such phenomenal population growth would


understandably face multifarious problems. If such a city happens to be the capital of
a poor country and governed by inexperienced people also lacking in vision,
commitment and integrity, the problems soon assume crisis proportions. This is what

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has been happening in the case of Dhaka, particularly in the DCC limits. Among the
more critical problems in the city would be: problems of transportation and traffic
congestion, environmental degradation, law and order situation, and problems of
personal security and problems of delivery of services, including the service of solid
waste disposal and management. Delivering services to the urban poor would be even
more problematic.

The Poor in Dhaka

The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics is the officially designated institution to estimate


poverty data in the country. BBS has taken help of the Centre for Integrated Rural
Development in Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) in monitoring the poverty situation in
the country over the last few years. According to BBS, the incidence of urban poverty
(based on head count ratio) was 43 percent in 1999-2000. However, the Planning
Commission using the BBS Household Expenditure Survey 2000 for its Poverty
Reduction Strategy Paper (ERD, 2003) has estimated the incidence of urban poverty
to be 36.6 percent (as against a rural poverty incidence of 53.0% and national poverty
incidence of 49.8%).

We may assume an average figure of 40 percent for urban poverty incidence for
Bangladesh in 2000. The same figure may be taken also for 2004, since there are
constant debates on the rate of change in the poverty incidence in the most recent
years, implying no perceptible change.

There has not been any BBS survey of poverty for Dhaka city. The most
comprehensive recent survey of urban poverty was conducted by the Centre for Urban
Studies (CUS) in 1996 for the Asian Development Bank. Led by Islam (the first
author of the present paper) the survey came up with a rather high incidence of
poverty in Dhaka city. This was found to be 52 percent for Poverty Level-I (All
Moderate Poor & Hardcore Poor) and 30 percent for Poverty Level-II (only Hardcore
Poor). One could get involved in serious debates about such wide variations in
statistics on poverty incidence. For one thing the definition of poverty varied between
studies, and for another, the method of data collection could also be questioned. While
one could reason that economic opportunities in Dhaka were far greater than those in
other urban areas, and therefore poverty incidence should be comparatively lower in
Dhaka than the national urban average, a contrary argument posits that since Dhaka

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continuously receives the greatest number of rural migrants, the overwhelming
majority of whom are the destitutes and the poor, poverty incidence remains high in
Dhaka.

In addition, indirect calculations (based on estimates of people associated with


occupations typical of the poor) also indicate high incidence of poverty in Dhaka. One
such study conducted in 1996 by an economist (Muhammad, 2000) has found 29
percent of people of various occupations to have household income of less than Tk.
2000 a month (may be considered to be the Hardcore Poverty Line income) and
another 22.5 percent to have household monthly income between 2001 – 3000 taka
being upper limit of the Moderate Poor). The total of 51.5 percent is very close to the
poverty incidence found by Islam et al., also in 1996.

Honoraring the BBS estimates for urban poverty incidence we could take a midpoint
figure of around 45 percent for all poor, while the incidence for extreme poverty or
hardcore poverty the figure could be taken to be 25 percent. Interms of absolute
population, All Poor would then number at 3.37 million and the hardcore poor to be
1.88 million in 2004. (The Poverty Line Income in Dhaka at present may be assumed
at Tk. 4000, while Hardcore Poverty Line at Tk. 2500 per month per household).

The poor of Dhaka hold diverse occupations, mostly in the informal sector,
prominently as tricycle rickshaw pullers, hawkers and vendors, shop assistants,
construction workers and other day labors, domestic workers or maids small
shopkeepers, waste pickers, etc. and members in the formal sector, export oriented
garment industries (mostly females), and very low paid public and private sector
employees.

The poor live almost anywhere in Dhaka, but visibly in the numerous slums and
squatter settlements (Fig. 2).

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Fig 2. Slums and Squatter Settlement in Dhaka, 1996.
The latest mapping of such settlements was done by CUS in 1996 when 3007 clusters
of slums and squatter settlements were identified, with an estimated population of 1.5
million people. The rest of the poor lived in a mixed manner in areas/neighborhoods
best described as mixed income areas (lower, lower middle and middle income). A
large number of the poor (such as household workers, drivers, security guards etc.)
live as part of the middle class or upper class households and receive almost all utility
and urban services as such.

In considering the delivery of urban services for the poor in Dhaka, it is therefore
more pragmatic to look at the situation at the level of settlements of the urban poor,
namely (a) the Bastees slums or substandard housing on privately owned and (b)
Bastuhara colonies (or squatter settlements, substandard housing built illegally on
publicly owned land, including railway tracks and (c) sites of the ‘Bhashaman
Janogosthi’ (or pavement dwellers/floating population). The approximate proportion
of three such groups of the poor would be 50:45:05. While the first group comprises

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of both moderate poor and the hardcore (or the ultra poor or Hatadaridro) the two
other groups certainly comprise the hardcore poor.

SOLID WASTE IN DHAKA CITY

Like any other city, Dhaka produces the usual waste, solid, semi-solid and liquid.
Solid waste, as is known, are all sorts of solid refuses from households, offices,
factories, markets, public institutions, construction debris and rubbish, street sweeping
and garden trimmings. The increasing volume of solid waste and the complex variety
in these, including hazardous waste from hospitals and other sources, have become
issues of concern to both urban authorities and the citizens. For a large city like
Dhaka, solid waste management is indeed a very major concern.

Waste Generation

The estimates for solid waste production for Dhaka has varied from 3500 metric tons
to 4500 tons per day on very rough per capita basis, which has been taken to be
between 0.45 and 0.50 kg. Taking the mid-figure of 4000 tons per day at present, and
with a 5 percent growth rate of population, the city is apprehended to have a
proportionate increase in solid waste generation. By 2015 more than 6000 tons of
Solid Waste will be generated in DCC area. Various studies and survey reports have
concluded that the formal waste management system of DCC cannot collect and
dispose of more than half of the waste produced, the other half remain either
uncollected or partly picked up by informal sector people, or gathered in drains. The
magnitude of the problem has alarmed the people concerned.

Types of Solid Waste

Solid wastes are basically of two types (a) soft wastes or organic wastes, which
include vegetables, fruits, leftover food staff from households, hotels and restaurants,
and (b) hard wastes, such as pieces of wood, metals, glass, plastics and polythene
materials, paper, rubber, cloths and textile factory waste and construction materials.

As is evident from Table 1 food and vegetable wastes comprise 60 percent of all
wastes in Dhaka city, while about 18 percent comprise of plastic, rubber, wood and
leathers, 11 percent is paper products, about 9 percent is garden wastes, while rocks,
dirt, debris etc. make 2.3% and metals constitute only 0.15.

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Table 1: Composition of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Dhaka City

Components Percent
Food and Vegetables 59.91
Plastic, rubber, wood and lather 17.67
Paper products 11.21
Garden wastes & etc. 8.76
Rock, dirt, debris & Misc 2.3
Metals 0.15
Total 100.00
Source: Huda, 2002

Source of Solid Waste

Interms of sources of solid waste, households account for nearly half of the wastes
generated in the city while markets or commercial centres contribute one-fifth,
industrial waste account for about 24 percent and hospitals and clinic contribute about
7 percent (Table 2).

Table 2: Total solid waste generation per day (DCC, 2002)

Types Amount (tons) Percentage


Residential 1718 49.08
Commercial 722 20.86
Industrial 835 23.86
Hospital and Clinical 255 7.29
Total 3500 100.00

Source: Bhuiyan, Huq and Hossain, 2002

SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT SITUATION

Solid waste management refers to all activities pertaining to the control, collection,
transportation, processing and disposal of waste in accordance with the best principles
of public health, economics, engineering, aesthetics, mental considerations. Its scope
includes the entire spectrum of administrative, financial, legal, planning engineering
and technological functions.

Dhaka has earned a bad reputation as a city of uncollected garbage, so much so that a
senior journalist had commented a few years back that the citizens in Dhaka “co-exist
happily with garbage” (Sarker, 1990). The situation has not improved at all, except in
some privileged locations.

The city authority, DCC, is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the city clean
and hygienic. According to the City Corporation Ordinance, DCC is responsible for
removal of refuse (Box 1 for details).

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Box 1

Removal, collection and disposal of refuse

The Corporation shall make adequate arrangements for the removal of refuse from all public streets, public
latrines, urinals, drains, and all buildings and land vested in the Corporation and for the collection and proper
disposal of such refuse.
The occupiers of all other buildings and lands within the Corporation shall be responsible for the removal of
refuse from such buildings and land subject to the general control and supervision of the Corporation.
The Corporation may cause public dust-bins or other suitable receptacles to provided, the Corporation may, by
public notice, require that all refuse accumulating in any premises or land shall be deposited by the owner or
occupier of such premises or land in such dust-bins or receptacles.
All refuse removed and collected and by the staff of the Corporation or under their control and supervision and
all refuse deposited in the dust bins and other receptacles provided by the Corporation shall be the property of
the Corporation.

Source: The Dhaka City Corporation Ordinance, 1983 (Article 78).

In this regard it has a three fold duty, a) sweeping the streets and collect, carry and
dispose of the dust, dirt, leaves, paper, food waste etc. garbage to the nearest dustbin,
collect these from the bins and carry and dispose these at the specified dumping
ground, b) collect garbage from dustbins, garbage brought in there from households,
carry and dispose these at specified dumping grounds, c) collect garbage/waste from
municipal and other Kutcha Bazar (vegetable/wet market), d) collect hard rubbish and
wastes from major construction sites and carry these two dump sites or at privately
owned holes/lowlands and e) clean storm sewers or roadside drains in residential
areas and other areas.

The Process of Waste Removal

The City Corporation as a fleet of over 7000 cleaners. The street cleaners sweep the
streets manually with brooms. A pair of sweepers is assigned to each beat to sweep
and clean the roads and the lane in a community. One sweeper sweeps the roads and
lanes and form small heaps of sweepings along the kerb, the second sweeper loads
these heaps into a handcart and carries these to the nearest garbage bin (made of brick
and cement) or demountable container (steel bodied) provided through a World Bank
support. DCC has some 206 such containers for the whole city. Some of these are in
bad shape. DCC has 141 container-carriers or heavy duty trucks.

The storm sewer cleaners clean drains in the residential areas and heap the silts along
roadsides. They leave it to dry for reduction of weight and volume. Another group
loads the silts into wheel barrows or hand trolleys for carrying waste to the trucks.

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(Recently, in some areas, these silts are sold by the cleaners to potential users in plant
nurseries).

For the household waste, normally the households themselves bring these to the
nearby garbage bins, while in many cases now a days, NGOs and CBOs arrange door
to door collection of wastes for a monthly fee. The municipal cleaners in some cases
also collect wastes from households, hospitals, shops and establishments for a
(privately arranged) fee. The DCC trucks then collect the wastes from the bins and
transports these to the final dumping sites.

At present there are at least three methods of collection at the bin point. In some
cases, wastes are placed on open street kerbs to be collected and loaded on trucks.
Second, wastes are placed in masonry/cncerte bins 3 – 4 feet high walls with wide
opening on one side and no cover, the wastes are loaded manually on to trucks. Third,
steel body containers (imported through World Bank funding), placed carelessly on
roads (Photo……..) are used for collection of wastes and then the loaded containers
are lifted on to trucks to be transported to the dumpsite. Very recently the
Conservancy Department of DCC has designed a new large covered van (with
capacity of nearly two containers full of load) with wheels to be trailer-transported by
trucks to the dumpsites. These vans also have flexible ramps for easy loading of
wastes from hand pushed wheel barrows.

While all wastes are supposed to be placed at the bins by 10 am, to be collected and
transported immediately after that, people tend to bring in wastes almost throughout
the day and bin to dump transportation also continues in the afternoon. Waste carrying
trucks are supposed to be covered by canvas, or thick plastic sheets, some trucks are
seen covered properly, but most are not. Droppings on the way are quite common. Not
only the waste bins are placed haphazardly, quite often these are the most unsightly
places, with garbage scattered all around. Waste pickers, dogs and crows all play their
role (Photo……………).

Dumpsite

The wastes collected are dumped at basically only three sites, which again are not
proper sanitary landfills. The larger one is located at Matuail, about 3 kilometers
south-east of the DCC central office while a second, smaller one, is located at Gabtoli
along the flood protection embankment. During the rainy season, as it is now in June,

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the dump is getting flooded and waste will be carried away to pollute the river water.
The third dumpsite is very new and located in a low-lying spot at Ashulia, north-east
of Dhaka.

At none of these sites waste dumping is done in any scientific manner, only on
occasions, some sand covering is arranged. The principal dump site Matuail is more
than 25 kilometers from many parts of the city.

Of late, carrying of waste from bin points to dumpsite, a traditional responsibility of


DCC, has been privatized in Uttara, a large suburban residential district. An NGO
named MIRUD, has been contracted to collect wastes from bin point and to carry
these to the Matuail dumpsite in their own vehicles. It is an experimental venture, if
found successful privatization may be scaled. But preliminary information about its
operation is not very encouraging.

The disposal operation even at the main dumping site at Matuail is very poorly
organized. Pollution of surface water and possibly ground water by leacheates
produced at the dumping site is a major problem (Bhuiyan, Huq and Hossain, 2002).
Generation of potentially toxic and explosive gases within dumping sites is another
major concern.

While the above concerns relate to large dumpsites, such as Matuail, or the emerging
ones at Gabtoli or Ashulia, DCC also dumps waste in relatively small amount in
undesignated locations, almost on any low-lying land close to a truckable road. One
example is the confluence of three small rivers in north-east fringe of the city near
Trimohoni, where municipal solid waste is dumped blocking the flow of water and
polluting it very seriously.

Hazardous Waste

While domestic or household wastes are both organic and inorganic solid, these are
normally not hazardous, market wastes are also of similar nature, office or
establishment based wastes are generally dry solid and non hazardous, industrial
wastes can be both hazardous and non hazardous. The largest concentrations of
industries within Dhaka City (DCC area) at present are the export oriented garment
industries, numbering nearly 2000. There are also several hundred other industries of
different sizes and categories of industries, including nearly 300 tanneries.

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The garment factory wastes are generally cloth pieces, and are recyclable, but the
factories with dying functions cause liquid chemical waste of hazardous nature. The
tanneries produce liquid wastes and seriously pollute the adjoining rivers. These also
have solid waste which are partly recycled.

However, the most hazardous solid wastes are coming out of the nearly 500 clinics
and hospitals located in different parts of the city. About 200 tons of waste were
produced by these hospitals in the year 2000 out of which about 40 tons were
infectious wastes (Imitiaz and Alam, 2000). The amount of waste has certainly
increased in the meantime.

Clinical or hospital medical wastes or “healthcare waste” are generated as a by-


product of health care activities and its generation is unavoidable. Although most
wastes generated in healthcare establishments can be treated as regular municipal
waste, some healthcare waste requires special attention including sharps (e.g.,
needles, razors, scalpels), pathological waste, other potentially infectious wastes,
pharmaceutical waste, anatomical waste, hazardous chemical waste and radioactive
waste. Collectively, the wastes are known as “special health care waste” (Imtiaz and
Alam, 2002 quoting World Bank). These wastes make many sites in the city
vulnerable to health risks (Fig. 3).

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Source: Imtiaz and Alam, 2002
Fig. 3
In Dhaka the proportion of regular to special healthcare waste was found to be about
83 to 17 in a study by Imtiaz and Alam (2002). They also found that none of the
health care establishments had a documented waste management policy and the
practice of waste management in general was very much unsatisfactory. In most of the
establishments all categories of wastes were being collected in open plastic buckets
without any segregation or with limited segregation in some. Hardly any protection
measures are taken during collection. Wastes are generally placed at municipal
dustbins without any treatment in most of cases or with limited treatment in a few
cases. The waste pickers may collect, reuse or sell the sharps and other harmful
wastes. Most of the disposal sites are adjacent to or near the health care
establishments. As these are open sites, these are also sources of noxious smell and
transmittable diseases. Drug addicts are usual scavengers in these bin sites and users
of untreated needles for example. The poor drainage system together with open health
care waste disposal create serious health hazard in the city.

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Unfortunately majority of both the waste handlers and the citizens in general are
either “totally unconcerned” or only “somewhat concerned” at the hazardousness of
health care or clinical wastes (Fig. 4).

Source: Imtiaz and Alam, 2002


Fig. 4
Neither the City Corporation nor the government have any policy with regard to
hospital waste disposal. (Indeed there is no policy even on hospital or clinic location).
They naturally do not have any proper disposal or management programme. A small
NGO, IPD, however, has been impleming a small scale project on clinical waste
management on a pilot basis with a tiny support from LIFE-UNDP, involving 20
private hospitals in the city. The project organizes segregations of waste at source,
collection, transportation and disposal of waste in a relatively safe procedure.
However, as incineration facilities are very limited, final hazard free disposal is also
limited.

Imtiaz and Alam (2002) have determined risk levels for people of various groups
directly or indirectly affected by healthcare waste considering proximity to waste,
possible pathways, level of awareness, educational level, duration at work, economic
condition etc.
Table 3: Healthcare waste related groups potentially at risk
Groups Level of Risk Ranks (1-15)
Waste pickers/rag pickers Highest 1
Healthcare waste handlers Very high 2
Municipal waste worker Very high 3
Sweepers in healthcare establishments High 4
House cleaners in healthcare establishments High 5
Workers in waste disposal facilities High 6
People involved in waste recycles High 7
Inject-able drug addicts Medium to high 8
Healthcare workers Medium to high 9
People of associated households Medium to high 10
Patients in healthcare establishments Medium to high 11
People of low income group Medium to low 12
Children Medium to low 13
Medical professional (doctors, nurses) Low 14
Various to healthcare establishments Low 15
Sources: Primary and Secondary

Source: Imtiaz and Alam, 2002

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WASTE AND THE POOR IN DHAKA CITY

The urban poor in Dhaka city are associated with solid waste both as receivers of the
service and as deliverers or providers of the service in the sector.

Poor as Receivers of the Service: All citizens of Dhaka are expected to receive the
basic urban services, including the service of solid waste removal. The City
Corporation is mandated with the task of collection, removal, transportation and
disposal of waste. However, DCC is not required to collect waste from the door step
of a household, rather it collects waste from waste bins placed by DCC at various
locations in the city.

The poor live in identifiable slums and squatter settlements. Although slums on
privately owned land have some legality, the municipal service of solid waste
collection from slum areas gets a low priority with the authority. Many slums are not
provided with permanent bins. Because of narrowness of roads and lanes in slums,
only hand carts, and in some cases rickshaw vans, can provide the collection service,
which again is not very regular in slums. There is also acute problem of getting
enough space in a congested slums to install a masonry bin. In some such cases
temporary and movable drum-bins or barrels are provided.

However, in slums where some donor funded environmental or area/community


development programmes are operative, solid waste collection and removal practice is
quite visible. Such programmes in Dhaka include UNICEF’s Support for Urban Basic
Services Delivery, ADB’s Primary Health Care Project, or the UNDP’s Local
Initiative for Environment, LIFE programme. CARE, Bangladesh runs an excellent
urban project called SHAHAR, which has a component on solid waste management
and water and sanitation in slum areas. Unfortunately, it does not cover DCC, but
does so at Tongi which is adjacent to Dhaka. All these programmes are based on
community participation and have proved very effective.

Squatter settlements or illegal settlements on government or semi-government land,


are not normally recognized by DCC and hence do not come under DCC’s waste
removal service. However, many NGOs work in such areas offering credit and health
services. Sometimes they also provide waste collection service.

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Waste Concern, an environmental NGO, specializing in solid waste management, has
extended its waste-related service to both legal slums and unauthorized squatter
settlements.

Planned low-income settlements (or squatter resettlements) like the ones in Mirpur
(Kulshi) have well designed waste management system. But due to high density of
population the quality of service tends to become low within a short time after start.

In any case, donor supported or NGO operated programmes or projects on solid waste
management (or other programmes) concerning the urban poor in Dhaka covers a
very small proportion of the poor in the city. The majority of poor settlements have to
manage their own service. DCC provides very marginal service.

DCC, however, can argue that they are required to extend garbage removal services to
only legal rate paying property owners and not slum or squatter dwellers who do not
pay holding/property tax.

The poor who are absolutely homeless and live practically on pavements or other
undesignated places (currently they may number 100,000 or more), do not enjoy any
municipal service at all, not even free toilet or water.

The Poor as Providers of Solid Waste Management Service

The poor of Dhaka are closely involved in the delivery of solid waste service at
various stages both in the formal structure and in the informal way.

In the formal structure, the lower level employees of DCC, known as cleaners, are the
largest number of waste workers. There are about 7200 cleaners in DCC, some as
permanent staff and the rest on a temporary contractual arrangement (known as
“Master Roll” employees, enjoying minimum benefits). In addition, there are loaders
working with the transportation trucks. There are also the lower level employees in
the central and ten zonal offices of DCC who are also involved in solid waste
management system.

Some of the sweepers, cleaners and night soil collectors (no longer in practice) are
traditional family based employees of the city, their forefathers having been brought
in from a community in South India. At present majority of the employees are local
Bengalis, both men and women. The traditional sweepers and cleaners live in the
city’s designated sweepers or cleaners colonies where normally the environment is far

16
from being clean. (Table 4 shows non-availability of solid waste service in
neighborhood of cleaners).

Table 4: Service Received by Waste Cleaners and Sweepers


Utility DCC Private
Service Available % Not % Total Available % Not % Total
Available available available
Electricity 140 100 0.00 0.00 140 32 100 0 0.00 32
Water 126 90.00 14 10.00 140 31 96.88 1 3.12 32
Supply
Gas 26 18.57 114 81.43 140 11 34.37 21 65.60 32
Toilet 138 98.57 2 1.43 140 29 90.63 3 9.37 32
Sewerage 45 32.14 95 67.85 140 7 21.86 25 78.14 32
Solid Waste 12 8.57 128 91.43 140 0 0.00 32 100 32
Collection
System
Others 0 0.00 140 100 140 0 0.00 32 100 32

Source: Sheltech, 2004

Formal municipal cleaners normally sweep streets, clean drains, collect heaped
garbage and deposit these at waste bins. Groups then load the waste on to trucks and
assist in transporting these to dumpsites and unload and spread out at final deposition.
Some of them also collect garbage from households on personal arrangement, for a
fee. In some cases, poor municipal cleaners, unofficially (in fact, illegally) subcontract
their work to their relatives or others for a smaller fee, while, they themselves get
engaged in private work elsewhere.

The informal sector is getting increasingly involved in solid waste management


activities. They are sometimes supported by the private sector or more so by the
NGOs and CBOs or by the elected Commissioners of the City Corporation Council.

The informl sector workers are basically the urban poor, but NGOs/CBOs leaders are
not necessarily so, in fact very few are. The Commissioners are by no means poor,
some of them are quite rich.

The poor informal sector solid waste workers are involved in door to door collection,
and transportation from household to municipal garbage bin location. Most of these
people are men, majority being young children. Even some of the cycle van drivers
are little boys of ten to twelve and yet somehow allowed to drive around on busy main
roads of the city. No body seems to care.

A very large number of little boys (and nowadays also girls) are engaged in collecting
and sorting waste before bring these to the garbage bin or the bin. These children have
come to be known as Tokais, thanks to a very successful cartoon of this name by a
famous artist (Ranabi or Rafiqunnabi) of the country, Tokai (of the cartoon) was

17
created 25 years ago in 1977, but still remains the same 10 year boy. The artist has
given him an eternal juvenility.

The poor of Dhaka are also engaged in reusing and recycling waste in an informal
system with very large number of them being involved in recycling plastics,
polythene, rubber, paper, metals, glass and other objectives.

The Centre for Urban Studies (CUS) has recently conducted a survey of NGOs/CBOs
involved in SWM in the city and have found at least 130 such organizations
employing between 5 to 50 persons each (CUS, 2004). Most of the workers receive
lower than legal ways and are required to observe no health standards. Sheltech
Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd. conducted a small survey of SW cleaners/sweepers in Dhaka
city taking 140 cases for the DCC employees and 32 cases for the private
(NGOs/CBOs) groups. It is evident that almost all cleaners/sweepers in the private
NGO sector earn very low income and definitely fall within the hardcore poverty
group. Even among DCC employees 40% belong to hardcore poverty group and few
above that level 19% of the DCC employees themselves get no waste collection
service while the same is 100% for private cleaners (Table 5).

Table 5: Income pattern of Cleaners


Monthly DCC Private Total
Income (Tk.) Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
<1000 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00
1001-1500 0 0.00 20 62.50 20 11.62
1501-2000 3 2.14 10 31.25 13 7.55
2001-2500 52 37.14 2 6.25 54 31.39
2501-3000 46 32.85 00 0.00 46 26.75
3000+ 39 27.86 00 0.00 39 22.69
Total 140 100 32 100 172 100
Source: Sheltech, 2004

Recycling of Waste and the Poor

In Dhaka city there is a tradition of waste recycling. Initially, during the late 1950s
waste paper used to be the most problems item for recycling. Waste collectors and
paper vendees would purchase old used paper (specially newspapers, but also old
books/exercise note books etc.) from household offices and shops, and sell these to
manually operated recycling plants. There were 30 to 40 such plants in Dhaka early
1980 but the number came down to 13 in the 1990s (Ahsan etal. 1991). However,
partially mechanical and fully mechanical repulping plants got introduced in the
meantime. Other popular items of recycling in recent years have been broken glass
(`80s onwards), hard and soft plastics (since early `80s), iron and tin (Table 6).

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Recycling plants are located at different parts of the city, but large concentrations are
found in the crowded old parts of the city at Lalbagh near the river.

Table 6: Recycled Product from some Selected Waste Materials


Waste materials Products
Paper Cartons hardboards, packets in retailing
Glass Water-glass, jugs, bottles, glass sheets for contruction work, etc.
Plastic Sanitary pipes and fittings, wearing pipes, utensils, dolls, balls, i.e. privately
owned factories making low cost plastic articles.
Scrap Iron and Tin Construction rods, pins, pipes, etc.
Tin pots Cutting up cans into rectangular sheets, making containers decoloring sheets.
Source: Ahsan et al. 1991
A large number of poor people are involved in the waste recycling process at various
stages.

Composting and the Poor

Composting as a method of disposal is well recognized. It also turns waste into


resource. Traditionally, rural households used to compost vegetable waste in to
organic fertilizer. Some urban households having yards also do the same. Recently,
Waste Concern, an environmental NGO, has introduced Barrel Type composting in
slum and non-slum areas. This is a low cost and effective method. Its success has
encouraged Waste Concern to expand it not only in other parts of the city but also
encourage other NGOs to introduce the system in other cities. It opens up opportunity
for employment and income earning for the urban poor. Waste Concern, engage many
poor people including women.

There is no reliable statistics as yet on the number of poor (or non-poor) people
engaged in the solid waste management activities in Dhaka, but our educated guess
would be of at least 100,000 people involved in the various stage and types of
activities of waste management and business.

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Box 2: Waste Concern’s Experience in Compost making

Community Based Composting in Dhaka: the Experience of Waste Concern

More then seven million inhabitants of Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) area generate over 3500 tons of
municipal solid waste daily. Some of it remains on roadsides. In open drains, and in low-lying areas, thus
contributing to the deteriorating quality of the city’s public health and physical environment. Although 15
percent of the recyclables, mainly inorganic materials are recycled by informal sector, most of the ready
available material from the waste stream, a considerable value remains in the organic portion of the solid
waste constituting about 80 percent of total waste.
In 19595, Waste Concern (WC) initiated the idea of recovering value from waste with the concept of public-
private and community partnership (PPCP) approach. WC has involved the public sector (such as city
corporation, local municipalities, Public Works Departments) to involved in the house to house waste
collection programme composting activities and private fertilizer marketing companies are marketing the
compost product (raw compost and enriched compost) from these plants.
Because of its success, in 1998 the Ministry of Environment and Forest under the Sustainable Environment
Management Programme (SEMP) with the support from UNDP, selected WC to implement this model in five
more communities of Dhaka City. Since 2002, this model of waste recycling has been replicated in fourteen
cities and towns of Bangladesh with financial support from UNICEF and technical support from WC.
Experience shows that decentralized composting can significantly decreases the land and financial resources
required for management of solid waste. The project has resulted in significant improvement of the local
environment and cleanliness, created employment opportunity for the urban poor, promoted organic farming
and created business opportunities for entrepreneurs from waste. This project has become a model for several
city governments, NGOs and cities locally and regionally.

Source: JICA Newsletter, May, 2004.

CONCLUSION

Dhaka takes some pride to be known as one of the megacities of the world but feels
embarrassed when it is introduced as a city of the poor and city of multifarious
problems. Managing its solid waste has been one of the more critical problems faced
by the city. Solid waste management system in the city is very ill organized and
inefficient. Traditionally, the City Corporation has been the organization solely
responsible for collection, removal and disposal of the solid waste. But the city’s
capacity and efficiency only allowed collection of around 50 percent of the waste, the
rest being forgotten or allowed to be taken care of by informal sector waste pickers
and others. However, at all stages of the solid waste management process, the poor of
the city have been closely involved and that so in large numbers. On the other hand,
the poor as citizens receive only marginal service from either the city authority.

The intervention of some donor agencies and NGOs have somewhat improved the
waste service in low income settlements.

Recently NGOs/CBOs have also become involved in SWM in middle class and upper
class residential areas. Their work started as supplementary to DCC’s SWM service,

20
but to some extent they are seen to be replacing DCC responsibility. Often, their
services are also not of satisfactory level. As of now, SWM in Dhaka can at best be
described as amateurish.

All these issues have led DCC to undertake a new project entitled “Clean Dhaka,
Green Dhaka” jointly with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
with the objective of preparing a Master Plan for SWM in Dhaka City. It is hoped that
a sustainable system will be devised with adequate role in it for the urban poor. It
should also extend delivery of waste removal service to the urban poor settlements.

The task is daunting but can not be sidetracked.

REFERENCES
Ahsan, Rosie M. 1996, “Solid Waste Recycling in Dhaka City” in Dhaka Folk Work and Place” pp. 83-
97, USP, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Bhuiyan, M.A.H., Huq, N.E., and Hossain M.M., 2002, “Unplanned Waste Disposal and its Possible
Impact on subsurface Environment of Dhaka City, Bangladesh” in Bangladesh Environment
2002, Vol. 2. (Ed.) M. Feroz Ahmed, Saleh A Tanveer, ABM Badruzzaman, pp. 723-731, BAPA,
Dhaka, Bangladesh.
CUS, 2004. Survey of NGOs and CBOs Involved in Solid Waste Management in Dhaka City. Dhaka:
Centre for Urban Studies (CUS), for JICA.
DCC-JICA, May 2004. Clean Dhaka Master Plan, Newsletter
ERD, GOB, 2003. Bangladesh: A National Strategy for Economic Growth, Poverty Reduction and
Social Development (IPRSP). Dhaka: GOB.
Enayetullah, Iftekhar and Sinha, A.H. Md. Maqsood, 2002, “Barrel Type Composting for Slums:
Experience of Waste Concern in Dhaka” in Nagar Saili Vol. 1, pp. 27-29, Department of Urban
Regional Planning, BUET, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Huda, Nurul K.M., 2002, “Municipal Solid Waste Management – Dhaka City Perspective” in
Bangladesh Environment, 2002. Vol. 2 (Ed.) M. Feroz Ahmed, Saleh A. Tanveer, ABM
Badruzzaman, pp. 732-746, BAPA, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Imtiaz, N. and Alam, M.S. 2002, “Healthcare Wastes of Dhaka City: A Socio-environmental
Assessment”, Bangladesh Environment 2002, Vol. 2. (Ed.) M. Feroz Ahmed, Saleh A Tanveer,
ABM Badruzzaman, pp. 751-769, BAPA, Dhaka Bangladesh.
Islam, N., N. Huda, F.B. Narayan and P.B. Rana, 1997. Addressing the Urban Poverty Agenda in
Bangladesh: Dhaka UPL and ADB.
Nagayama, K., 2004, “The Study on Solid Waste Management in Dhaka City – overview of
Preliminary Findings” paper presented at the seminar on Solid Waste Management in Dhaka
City, 17 June 2004, Dhaka, JICA.
Sarker, A., 1990. “Co-existence with Garbage”, Weekly Holiday, June 29, 1990.
Shamsuzzoha, M. 2002, “Dhaka City’s Waste and Waste Management Scenario” in Bangladesh
Environment 2002, Vol. 2 (Ed.) M. Feroz Ahmed, Saleh A Tanveer, ABM Badruzzaman pp. 818-
829, BAPA, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Sheltech Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd. 2004 Survey of Cleaners in Dhaka City (Draft Report for JICA)

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PHOTOGRAPHS

Photo 1: Waste on Rickshaw Lane.

Photo 2: Container on Traffic Circle.

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Photo 3: Container on main road.

Photo 4: Segregating in dumpsite.

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Photo 5: Waste everywhere

Photo 6: Waste dumped along Canal

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Photo 7: Container on Road.

Photo 8: Waste outside container.

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