Keep your city clean and green

My home town could still boast of having a nice neatness and I believed so. But this firm belief has been breached by the activities of the community and the municipality. Citation of an example will make you understand how both the community and the municipality are interrelated to breach of their respective duty. So far as I have been informed that one of my neighbours does business with hides. His previous activities caught sight of us only during the Eid-ul-Azha. But last month when I visited my home, I was stunned by the news that the man has built a thatched house in the playing field in the neighbourhood to nourish the business and engaged few people for this purpose. In the evening I along with some traditional and informal local leaders went to the particular neighbour to know about his new project. He said nothing but showed us the approbation of the municipality. At first stage I was upset but I got some relief when I thought about the precarious living of people in Hazaribagh, a densely populated area in Dhaka city where ninety percent of the tanneries of our country are located. Several studies reveal that these tanneries are producing 7.70 million litres of liquid waste and 88 metric tons of solid waste per day.

Though leather has marked influence in our economy, waste products produced during its processing i.e. Unhairing and liming have rather bad effects on health. During unhairing and liming of hides in tanneries, hydrogen sulphide gas is produced. This gas often breaks down the nervous system of the human body, creates complexity in the respiratory system, causes bronchitis, skin diseases, and vertigo etc. If you have gone to Hazaribagh, you might have noticed that the whole environment is losing its lustre. Studies also reveal that most of the tanneries discard their cast-offs without purification.

Isolation of these tanneries from the locality may be an effective solution but it is difficult to find sites for these industries as there is inherent space problems in our country because of the high population density. Hence the control of this chemical hazard is ultimately an engineering problem and the waste management lies with the municipality.

Now let us focus our minds on solid waste-the accumulation of which in man’s environment constitutes positive health hazards. In the cities it is called refuse. It includes non-liquid materials from households, industrial and commercial establishments, institutions and streets that do not have value any more in the eyes of its first generator. Fermentation of the organic parts of solid wastes favours fly breeding. Hence pathogens may be conveyed to man through flies and there is possibility of either water or air pollution. Above all, piles of refuse in streets and open spaces are nuisance from an aesthetic point of view.

Though the residents of a neighbourhood have a sense of responsibility for their home and immediate environment, they do not show an iota of responsibility for public spaces such as streets and drains. Most of the time they consider that it is the responsibility of the municipality to keep the cleanliness of public spaces. On the other hand, municipalities of our country often lack the money and manpower to fulfill this task and sometimes they think the neighbourhoods are responsible for this. This internecine attitude of both the municipality and its residents has negative consequences for the cleanliness of public spaces. Sometimes, accumulation of refuse in public spaces is due to the lack of facilities i.e. if a dustbin or dump is far away from resident’s house, people tend to fling their waste much more often in streets, open spaces. Another reason is that in our country, servants, caretakers and watchmen are important agents to carry the household garbage to the public bin. But because of nescience and reluctance to keep public space clean they throw the garbage next to the bin causing an unhygienic situation. In addition raw market is an affluent source of large volume of refuse to be piled up in open spaces. This whimsical treatment with solid waste by the community is due to the lack of accountability to the concerned authority and it is at the root of breaking proper sanitation behaviour of solid waste management-proper sanitation behaviour that facilitates solid waste management systems. There should be an efficient collection, removal and disposal of refuse without the risk of health. In fact, the social development of a community is reflected in the collection and disposal of its refuse. The first consideration should be given to the proper storage to refuse produced in household. The galvanized steel dustbin with close fitting cover is a suitable receptacle for storing refuse. A recent innovation in the western countries is the paper sack because paper is a liquid waste which compound with earth under bacterial action. People are generally expected to store household refuse in a suitable container and bind up in dumping the refuse in the nearest public bins provided by the municipality

House-to-house collection is by far the best method of refuse collection. The residents of the particular community will pay. Most residents might think that they already pay for waste collection through taxes. It is a fact but there is no alternative if we want a clean environment. Women’s cooperation is essential for the long-term success of any community-based solid waste management project since in many cultures, women are responsible for keeping the home and its immediate environment clean. The adolescents and even little children may help in this context i.e. bringing waste to the communal collection point. The public bins are generally handled and emptied manually or mechanically by the workers of the municipality. Although there are various methods of refuse disposal such as dumping, controlled tipping, incineration, composting, burial etc.; the selection of a particular method is governed by local factors such as cost and availability of land and labour. Once refuse of Dhaka city was dumped in low-lying areas of Jatrabari as it was an easy method of disposal of refuse. At present, every day five thousand cleaners of Dhaka City Corporation collect refuse from different areas of the city and dump this refuse in Matuail. If you have passed by the road near Jatrabari perhaps you have experienced the drawbacks of open dumping. A WHO Expert Committee condemned dumping as a most insanitary method that creates public hazards, a nuisance and severe pollution of the environment. Dumping should be outlawed and replaced by sound procedure. The sound and the most satisfactory method of refuse disposal where suitable land is available is perhaps controlled tipping or sanitary land fill. In recent times clinical refuse which is particularly dangerous has become an obstruction of keeping the neatness of Dhaka city. Since clinic business has become very attractive and profitable nowadays, private clinics are mushrooming in the Dhaka city. The refuse of these clinics is polluting the environment to a large extent. The best suggested method for the disposal of the clinical refuse is incineration. Since incineration is a complex method of refuse disposal and expensive, it is not practiced in our country. I think composting is the most suitable method under the circumstances of our country. The end product of this method is compost-contains few or no disease producing organisms and is a good soil builder. However, problems of refuse disposal cannot be solved without public education, people in this region have very little interest in cleanliness outside their homes. The public education may be accelerated by handing out pamphlets, representing the enormity of the problem through newspapers, broadcasting, films, etc. An informed citizen it is hoped, will contribute aid for the operation of solid waste management projects run by the city corporation, e.g. regular payment for collection, lending equipment to the collection team, etc. Police enforcement of the laws may also be needed at times. If need be, the city corporation may adopt a watchdog function to control the behaviour of the households in the context of treatment with garbage.

Among the solid wastes, polythene is the arch enemy of the environment. Once, there was no use of polythene bags in our country. Still I can recollect that I used to go to the market with my father with a jute gunny bag in hand. Nowadays we feel ashamed of having a gunny bag in hand. Japan, the home country of polythene, has prohibited the use of polythene visualizing its effect to environment pollution. Whereas in our country what we see is that in the budget speech of FY 1998-99, the Finance Minister has proposed for reduction of tax on raw materials of plastic and polythene resulting in increase of production and uses of polythene. A report of environment and social development organization has revealed that there are two hundred ninety factories for producing polythene bags in Dhaka city of which only one hundred seventy factories are registered. Apart from the bad effects to the environment, the use of polythene causes health hazards. If you stand for a while in front of a grocer’s shop, you will perhaps notice that poor people are even carrying edible oil in polythene bags. But they don’t know the fact that the chemical agents present in a polythene bag may react with the edible oil and may cause skin diseases. Very recently it is believed that there is a chance of cancer when polythene is used for storing foodstuffs, vegetables, etc. It contains various chemical agents and these chemical agents act as carcinogens, (these are the agents which are responsible to cause cancer). The ill effect of polythene bags in flooding the low lands of Dhaka city during the recent flood is known to all.

The production and use of plastic, polythene, etc. must be prohibited without any hesitation. I think the government should not face any obstruction to do so. It is hoped that government will inspire the alternative sectors, e.g. jute, paper and aluminium industries to regain their past tradition instead of inspiring plastic and polythene industries. I do believe that the prohibition on production and uses of plastic and polythene will play an important role for decreasing environment pollution.

A new problem has arisen in Dhaka-city which involved with dusty roads. Whenever a motor vehicle goes over those roads, it raises a cloud of dust. In this case, dusts are released into atmosphere from the breakage of roads and from unpaved road sides. Dusts are finely divided solid particles with size ranging from 0.1 to 150 microns (1 micron=0.000001 meter). The fraction of the dusts containing particles smaller than 5 microns, directly inhaled into the lungs and retained there, is called, respirable dust and is mainly responsible for pneumoconiosis which may gradually cripple a man by reducing his working capacity. Street dusts mainly contain silica which may cause a dust disease known as silicosis. There is no effective treatment for silicosis. The only way that silicosis can be controlled is by rigorous dust control measures-in this case personal protective measures. Very few days ago, most people of Dhaka city would wear surgeon’s masks as a personal protective measure to prevent themselves from inhaling dust and fumes. But at present, the use of masks among people is a debacle. Apart from personal protective measures, government should take immediate measures for dust control. The broken streets require repairs. The unpaved road sides shall be either grassed or paved. The well laid out streets and avenues are essential to control the whimsical and purposeful excavation of roads by PDB, T&T, etc.

Air pollution of Dhaka city is a growing menace to public health. At present, Dhaka is at the top of the list of air polluted cities throughout the world. So the problem of air pollution of Dhaka city should be brought to a sharp focus to take steps to ensure clean air. Although chemical industries, metallurgical industries, oil refineries, fertilizer factories etc. have contribution to air pollution, motor vehicles are the major source of air pollution in Dhaka city as most of the above mentioned industries are located in Chittagong region. At present, about 2.5 lakh motor vehicles ply in Dhaka city. These motor vehicles contribute to air pollution by emitting unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter (soot). In strong sunlight, certain of these unburned hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen may be converted in the atmosphere into a “photo chemical” pollutant of oxidizing nature. Moreover, diesel engines when misused or badly adjusted are capable of emitting black smoke and malodorous fumes. Studies reveal that about 100 kg of lead has been emitting with this black smoke every day in Dhaka city. The diseases currently suspected of being related to air pollution are chronic bronchitis often called the “English disease” and primary lung cancer.

The control of air pollution is usually an engineering problem. Gas driven engines have less contribution to air pollution when compared with spark-ignition and diesel engines. To reduce air pollution it is better to import lead free fuel oil. All the motor vehicles should have catalytic converters to prevent air pollution. Government should stop importing two stroke engine autos which have large contribution to air pollution. Many advanced countries have adopted legislation for control of air pollution.

It is believed that some air pollutants are readily removed by vegetation. Ashok, a pariah, had started first to plant trees along the road side. It was indeed a good deed and Ashok became popular and occupied a noble place in the society. Instead of destroying trees, we should engage ourselves to establish “green belts” between industrial and residential areas. It is our duty to keep our city clean and green.