Karachi is Pakistan’s biggest metropolis and the main economic centre. The city is home to more than 20 million souls, all trying to make it big. While living in this bustling city has its perks, there are also several downsides to it. One of them is the unplanned growth spurs that the city went through over the past 70 odd years, leaving it in an undesirable state, especially in terms of basic infrastructure and cleanliness. So, what can be done, or more importantly, what can you do to make Karachi clean and healthy again? Let’s find out.
Karachi—Its Current State
Visitors to Karachi, especially from rural and far-flung areas, often get a surprise when they arrive in Karachi expecting to see a well-kept and maintained city. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see dirty streets and trash-clogged gutters plaguing the town. Even though climate change is the talk of the world, Karachi still sees tons upon tons of garbage piled in unofficial landfills being burnt.
The provincial government is trying to address this depleting situation by taking matters into its own hands. The government of Sindh, in 2014, established the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) based on the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board Act-2013, taking over control of the city’s waste collection from the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) and handing it to the Sindh Government.
Now, out of the six districts of Karachi, SSWMB has outsourced garbage collection of four of them to two separate Chinese firms. One is responsible for the cleanliness of districts East and South, while the other is in charge of districts Malir and West. The SSWMB itself manages districts Central and Korangi. The Sindh Government is also considering using the generated waste for the production of renewable energy as a part of its plans to help Sindh go green.
As part of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board Act-2013, trash bins have been placed all over town, where the area’s residents can throw their trash responsibly to ensure proper collection and disposal of garbage. Given the city’s growing population, we see trash bins being emptied daily, but in spite of that, the ugly presence of overflowing bins, upturned bins, bins with broken lids, wheels, and handles, continue to threaten the health of every Karachite.
More problematic is the fact that a large population of Karachi lives in katchi abadis and lacks essential awareness on how to play a positive role in supporting the government’s efforts to maintain the town. Leaving the awareness-lacking masses aside, the crucial question here is: are we playing our part to make Karachi clean and healthy?
Individual Efforts Needed to Maintain Karachi’s Cleanliness
If you want to play your part—and you should—in cleaning Karachi and making it greener for our future generations, then here are some simple steps with a far-reaching impact that you can immediately take:
- Reduce trash at source
- Reuse what you can
- Avoid throwing trash on the roads
- Throw household waste into SSWMB bins
- Keep your street or building clean
- Create a neighbourhood association
- Plant more trees
- Ensure survival of the local vegetation
Let’s discuss these measures below.
Reduce Trash at Source
First things first; if we want to live in cleaner surroundings, we have to make efforts to keep them clean. This process starts at home, where most of the trash and waste is produced. One of the duties of a responsible citizen is not only to sort out what trash goes where but to reduce as much of it as possible.
To begin with, start using paper or cloth bags instead of plastic bags to carry your groceries, composting kitchen waste to make fertiliser for your garden, giving away leftover food to the needy, so it doesn’t end up in the trash. Start with your immediate surroundings and reduce the amount of waste you’re producing by making a conscious effort towards a cleaner and greener Karachi.
Reuse What You Can
In line with the above, try to find alternative uses for your trash. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Your old glass bottles might be worthless to you but might spark a lot of interest in a creative individual. Similarly, old pizza boxes have sturdy cardboard that can be used in many creative projects, and old shoeboxes make amazing DIY aquariums for school projects. The examples and methods of creatively using your trash are endless, once you put your mind to it.
Avoid Throwing Trash on the Roads
One of the primary ways to make Karachi clean and healthy is to avoid throwing trash on the streets, in public spaces, and out of your car windows. While a lot of effort still needs to be made to provide trash bins on every street in the city, it is quite easy for car owners to either keep their trash inside the car until they reach a garbage bin at their destination or to keep a mini dustbin inside the vehicle. Teaching children to avoid throwing snack wrappers on the streets ensures that the future generation grows up as responsible citizens too.
Throw Household Waste into SSWMB Bins
Once you sort out the trash and are certain that it all has to go into a bin, be sure to place it within the bin located in your area. Some areas also have a fixed trash-collecting individual who goes door to door, collecting trash on behalf of the KMC. The garbage collected then ends up in the area bins. While the second method offers convenience, as a resident of Karachi, you are responsible for your trash and should always ensure that it is being disposed of properly.
Another thing to note here is that as per the SSWMB, the local area trash bins are for household waste only. You need to actually call for a truck and get all forms of construction waste, rubble, concrete blocks, and trimmed tree branches and bushes sent to the nearest landfill. The same goes for hazardous industrial, chemical, and hospital waste. Unfortunately, in many parts of the city, people are unaware of this and leave their rubble and garden waste next to the collecting bins in the hopes that it will get picked up when the garbage truck comes around.
Keep Your Street or Building Clean
Play your part in keeping Karachi clean by making active efforts to remove, dust, dirt, debris, and trash from your street or apartment complex. If you live in a house in Karachi, sweep the area around your house, and avoid leaving rubble on the side of your door after you’re done with home renovations. If you live in a flat, your building management might take care of the cleanliness of the stairways and passageways, but one of the duties of a responsible citizen is always to do your part honestly. Sweep the hallways and stairs leading to your flat on a weekly basis at the very least.
Create a Neighbourhood Association
If you really want to make a planned effort towards cleaning Karachi, then creating a neighbourhood association or a building management committee is ideal. The association can collect a certain fee from every house or flat owner and use it to ensure a cleaner and greener Karachi. This committee should be responsible for everything, from maintaining the greenery in the area to getting rid of debris, trash collection, and sweeping the streets in a residential society or hallways in an apartment building. You can even organise cleaning drives in your area from time to time for this purpose.
Plant More Trees
This cannot be emphasised enough. Karachi’s monsoon season gets delayed and shortened in duration every year due to the lack of green areas in the city. As more and more high-rises take to the skies, parks and empty lots give way to structures of concrete, metal, and glass, with fewer rain spells. You can make Karachi greener by planting more trees that are native to this region. One way to do this is to host tree plantation events in the community and make this a fun-filled day where families bond together to ensure a cleaner and greener Karachi.
Ensure Survival of the Local Vegetation
Aside from keeping Karachi clean, you also need to keep it green and healthy, and one way to reduce the pollution levels and clean the air is not only to plant more trees but to ensure the survival of the ones that are already there. In spite of a water shortage across Karachi, people are using several means to maintain their personal gardens and yards, so why not spare some resources for the city as a whole? Do your part, even if nobody else will. Water plants in your area or hire someone to take care of them weekly if you have the resources.
These are some simple ways that can not only reduce the waste problem that Karachi faces but can also help us make Karachi clean and healthy again. Let’s join hands for a common cause to enjoy a cleaner, greener, and healthier Karachi in the coming years!
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