Anyone visiting Karachi, the largest Pakistani city, can get a fairly good idea how effective (read ineffective) our solid waste management system has been. From major shopping malls to key roads to small residential lanes Pakistanis demonstrate our seriousness about our “nisf Eamaan (safai) standards. No effective solid waste management and/or garbage collection and disposal system is apparently working, if in place at all. Political leaders and parties continue playing the blame game and continue finger pointing in each other direction and those who are actually responsible continue complaining about lack of authority, resources and support. Hence Karachi looks like a huge garbage dump. With the sanitation and cleanliness being ignored so long, the question is only when, not if, the mega city hits an epidemic.
If I remember from my school days correctly it was during the primary school years when kids are formally educated on basic civic responsibilities such as cleanliness, self help and citizens committees. That is to the classroom education which may be for few years. But from that point onwards every single hour, every single day, week month and year we demonstrate to these kids that what is taught in the classroom, stays in the classroom and that practical life is another story. Through our practical behavior we train the same kids to COMPLETELY ignore and forget those good classroom lessons and start living a practical life which means a complete disrespect to all our own civic duties and responsibilities and just to complain, complain and complain. Not that the responsible departments do an ideal job, but introspection is something that probably we as a nation have completely forgotten about.
Municipal corporation in the city where I live charge its citizens heavy taxes within their jurisdiction. Still the city does not offer a daily home garbage collection, it happens only once a week. Street sweeping is not done daily, weekly or even monthly, it happens may be once a “quarter”. However, the streets are still cleaner than in Karachi or Lahore. Neither are plastic bags flying or sticking everywhere not is garbage lying around or dump stations at each corner.
Have you ever noticed that most of worship places, be it mosques, churches or temples, are shining clean most of the time? Go, ask your imam, priest, or pandit as to how often do they vacuum the mosques, churches’ or temples’ carpets or sweep the floor. Chances are that they will tell you that due to religious fervor they to do it every day, but it would not matter even if they don’t do it for days. Wow, tons of people visit these places daily or in some cases even several times a day, still so clean? No cleaning for days still the places look great. Is it not surprising? Reasons are simple. If no one throws garbage, no one need to pick it up. As a matter of respect, no once litters the places of worship, and if by any chance someone drops anything or something gets dirty, people would quickly pick or clean it up and dispose in the garbage bins.
Why can’t we behave exactly the same everywhere else in our daily life, as we do at our religious places?
Let’s consider another example. During your last vacation you went to Satpara lake in Skardu, Gilgit Baltistan. Your guide took you to a really far, remote part of the lake shore. You found it a beautiful place, divine natural beauty, out of this world. And another thing that you noticed that the whole area was perfectly clean. Does someone clean up? No, the reason of cleanliness here is no people around. Naturally if no one comes here, no one throws any garbage, if there is no one too throw garbage the place remains clean and does not require cleaning.
So, the bottom line is that it is us, the people who create garbage and throw garbage and make a place dirty. In my opinion the major reason of our cities’ dirtiness is not that the respective cities’ municipal corporations do not do a good job, but it is that WE (common people) don’t do our part. Imagine if we stop ADDING garbage to city streets, it will be in matter of days that all existing street garbage will get removed and few more days of street sweeping will maker these streets clean. From that point onwards no daily sweeping will be needed, same resources can be used for garbage collection and disposal and work can be dome more quickly, and at a way lesser cost.
Let’s start doing the following ourselves before complaining to others, the municipal corporations:
- Let’s STOP throwing anything loose
- Let’s use garbage bags or garbage bins to dispose off garbage
- Let’s store the garbage bags or garbage bins within till the collection time
- Let’s try to pick up if some garbage is found lying somewhere and dispose off in garbage bins
- Let’s not wait for others to start something, lets start doing the above ourselves, now, today
Don’t forget everything start with us, me, not from others.
In my next blog I plan to make some suggestions to the relevant authorities how to approach the cleanliness drive in Karachi.
November 01, 2019