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Sustainable waste management in Bangladesh and South Asia

Published : Thursday, 9 March, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1228

Sustainable waste management in Bangladesh and South Asia

Sustainable waste management in Bangladesh and South Asia

The earth is dying because we are destroying it and that means we are dying too! And let us think what about our next generations? Bangladesh is preparing for the so-called fourth Industrial Revolution, but unfortunately it has no modern waste management system. Millions of people live in the cities, where solid waste is dumped on the streets in an open space. Bangladesh and other South Asian countries face several environmental problems, which threaten these resources including groundwater metal contamination, increased groundwater salinity, cyclones, flooding, and sedimentation and changing patterns of stream flow due to watershed mismanagement.

Air, water, soil pollution, disposal of solid waste and exposure to noise are the key problems of environment in Bangladesh.Reducing, reusing and recycling waste is important for the environment and it is also profitable.Three importance of waste management are: environmental protection, from pollution or contamination. Money generation, companies may buy recyclable materials due to their value. In addition, the waste management industry creates employment opportunities.

The best waste management option is recycling.Improvement in waste management can foster the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal / SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and help achieve other goals such as SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy.TheseGoals are also closely associated with the achievement of other SDGs.

Solid waste generation is in increasing trend with the growth of urban population. Bangladesh is generating about 8000 tons of solid waste each day from the six major cities: Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Barisal and Sylhet. Dhaka city alone is contributing about 70 percent. Waste management system is not well organized. Lack of regulations/standard for waste disposal, landfill and use, lack of awareness, improper choice of technology are the major constraints for waste management in Bangladesh.

Solid waste management is a grave concern for Bangladesh, because by 2025 waste generation per capita will be 0.75 kg/capita/day. And total amount of waste will reach 21.07 million tons per year. According to Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995, waste is: �Any solid, liquid, gaseous, radioactive substance, the release, disposal, and throwing away of which may cause deleterious changes to the environment.� Sustainable solid waste management is one of the prerequisites for sustainable environmental management.

There are many negative impacts of poor waste management. One of the most adverse impacts of poor waste management, especially municipal waste, is the incidence and prevalence of diseases such as malaria and respiratory problems, and other illnesses through the contamination of ground water. Biomedical wastes pose great danger in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries.  20 percent of the biomedical waste is highly infectious and is a hazard since it is often disposed of into the sewage system or drains. Such poor sanitation has serious consequences for the health of people. Different researches show that most of the child mortality could be related with this problem. Related to the living standards, solid waste leads to blockage in the drainage system that leads to flooding in the streets. Eighty percent of various diseases of people cause due to contaminated water. Consequently, mosquitoes and bad odour are among the negative impacts resulted.

So considering all those life-threatening, pressing issues let us think about Zero waste. By the way, the Philippines-based Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives / GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 1000 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 92 countries. It is with the aims of achieving a just, toxic-free world without incineration. The GAIA and Zero Waste International Alliancerecommended Zero waste in South Asian countries and globally as well. Itmentioned in their report that Zero waste is:

�The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning, and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.�

On a practical level, zero waste is both a goal and a plan of action. The goal is to ensure resource recovery and protect scarce natural resources by ending toxic waste disposal in incinerators, dumps, and landfills. And to establish systems that are socially and environmentally just in their place. The plan encompasses waste reduction, reuse, composting, recycling, and changes in consumption habits. Andindustrial redesign, strategies that create more resilient communities, climate solutions, social equity, and healthier environments.

The report added that community engagement has a large role to play in advancing zero waste solutions by shifting the playing field to one that enables zero waste policies to succeed and discourages or phases out false solutions. Engaged communities will better sustain the plan when government administrations change.Social justice plays a central role, as it is inherently tied to environmental justice.

Pursuant to the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE), Bangladesh, Nepal and other South Asian cities need to adapt to extreme climate events and work with their inhabitants to develop strategies to move away from the current culture of producing and haphazardly disposing large amounts of solid waste. Cities are facing increasing threats of flooding, waterlogging, and water contamination due to unplanned urban growth and expansion of cities into low-lying floodplains; Indiscriminate dumping of solid waste in the drainage system; Intense rainfall events which can overwhelm drainage systems of the cities.Structural solutions alone, without proper solid waste Management are almost ineffective in reducing the long-term flooding.  Therefore, let us plan and work for zero waste cities at any cost with community engagement for saving our lives and the next generations.

-      The writer is a journalist, media columnist, poet, author, audio and visual storyteller, and activist

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