Are there any secret millionaires in waste?<br />The framings of real waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka<br />STEPS Semina...
Notes - Are There Any Secret Millionnaires In Waste? The framings of real waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka
Notes - Are There Any Secret Millionnaires In Waste? The framings of real waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka
Notes - Are There Any Secret Millionnaires In Waste? The framings of real waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka
Notes - Are There Any Secret Millionnaires In Waste? The framings of real waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka
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Notes - Are There Any Secret Millionnaires In Waste? The framings of real waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka

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Notes on a talk given by Dr Mansoor Ali, Practical Action (ITDG) UK, at the STEPS Water Seminar on 12 March 2010.

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Notes - Are There Any Secret Millionnaires In Waste? The framings of real waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka

  1. 1. Are there any secret millionaires in waste?<br />The framings of real waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka<br />STEPS Seminar Notes<br />12th March, 2010<br />Karachi and Dhaka have many similarities and few differences. Forty years ago, they were two large cities of the same country. Each has a total population of between 12 to 14 million people. Both are commercial and industrial centers and among top 20 most populous cities in the world and both generates more than 6000 tonnes of waste every day. There are also few differences. Dhaka has an area of only 650 sq-kms, which means high population density and very high prices of land, perhaps putting more pressure on the urban poor. Small city area also means relatively less cost of services provision. Karachi has an area of 1600 sq-kms, which means relatively less population density, less pressure on land prices and high cost of providing and operating the services. Karachi has a municipal budget of 600 US million US $, while Dhaka has a budget of 150 US $ million (excluding water and sewerage services). There are also difference in the politics of the 2 cities. In Karachi the ruling party is not among the two dominant national political parties, while in Dhaka people vote to dominant national political parties. Karachi also have presence of approximately 1 million immigrants from Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Both the cities have extensive real systems of waste.<br />In this talk, I will be introducing 3 real waste systems. Then we will be discussing the so called modernization approaches in waste, followed by a discussion on what a concept like STEP could offer in practice.<br />Globally, when it comes to framing the waste issues, the literature and practices could take various positions. For example, there is a dominant set of literature which sees it from an access to a service perspective. This narrative will talk about service gaps, poor local capacity, institutional reforms, public participation, cost recovery and investments needed. The other group of literature may be looking at it from a ‘waste as a livelihoods for the poor’ perspective. This may include livelihoods, pickers doing recycling, urban poor earning income from a waste service etc. There may other narratives. For example, the emerging narrative on climate mitigation. This may be talking about green house reduction, capturing landfill gases, waste to energy, recycling and waste reduction. Having more than one narrative is natural, but in practice the key questions are;<br />1) Can these narratives work together?<br />2) Where is the capacity and institutions to deal, if there is are conflicts and tension between these narratives?<br />3) Do these narratives only exist in research and literature?<br />4) Do key decisions in practice, such as those on financing, standards etc. take care of all these different narratives?<br /> <br />Now, let me introduced the 3 real systems. Solid waste management is the official responsibility, which rests with the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and Karachi City Government. In reality waste collection and recycling is done by a range of relatively less recognized actors. These are;<br />1) Local Initiatives; systems of waste collection from houses to the nearest container/collection points in Dhaka<br />2) Sweepers Systems in Karachi<br />3) Systems of separation and recycling in both the cities<br /> <br />Local Initiatives<br />Local initiatives in Dhaka provides a collection service to 15 to 20% of the total population. This is at-least 2 million people or 300,000 paying units through 3000 enterprises. This also provides a regular income to 6,000 people, those who could not get access to jobs created by govt. or in manufacturing industries. This has an investment of US $ 1 million and a turnover of US $ 2.25 million as users charges per year. These systems are not still supported and recognized in any way by governments and donors. Some of these systems may be operated by municipal and self employed sweepers. These established systems are sustainable, while a number of government/ NGOs and donors workshops continue to debate and discuss the challenges of reaching the poorest, raising demand for services, scaling-up and users charges are regularly researched and discussed. We do not know why?<br />Sweepers Systems in Karachi <br />City Government in Karachi employs 12000 sweepers. In addition, another 4000 to 6000 sweepers work as self employed waste collectors. Sweepers are officially assigned ‘beats’ – length of streets they are expected to clean and they have to sign attendance twice with the municipal supervisors. In between the 2 shifts of work, which is their official time, they provide a primary collection service to households. Sweepers in Karachi provide a waste primary collection service to at-least 50% of the Karachi population i.e. guaranteed 1 million regularly paying clients. As a business, this service is delivered to those who could pay, which are not the low income areas. Sweepers also sale and purchase the areas (or group of clients) to each other. Our estimates suggest that all the sweepers in Karachi generates an amount equivalent to the total operational budget of the city council on solid waste and 50% of the amount spent on water and sanitation services. Presently their total income is estimated at US $ 10 million/ year. Again, raising demands, scaling up, investments and cost recoveries are not at all issues in these real systems, like this one. While these are regular topics of discussion, in relatively safer Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. <br />Systems of Recycling;<br />Waste is regularly separated by real systems at various stages. Waste is separated at home, in streets and in places of final disposal. At least 20% of waste by weight or 3000 tonnes/day (500 lorry loads) is separated and recycled by so called ‘informal systems’ each in Karachi and Dhaka. This generates an additional income for at least 2 million people and a turnover of US $ 55 million/ year in each of the city. This system creates 35000 jobs to those, who are hard to reach. The waste is passed through the chain of dealers, before reaching the recycling industries. Many dealers and recyclers in both the cities, also import waste and export finished products – hence they are already globally connected. The waste separators and generators near the source of production are many and small scale and are linked up with the processors and recyclers, who are large scale, registered and globally connected. <br />The strengths of real systems in waste are fairly obvious, in terms of employment creation, reducing waste, cleaning the local environment and maintaining demand and investments. They create employment for those, who otherwise hard to reach. Then, why these strengths do not translate into new programmes. <br />Programmes to Modernise Waste;<br />Programmes to improve/ modernise waste and/or to enhance recycling come from 3 broad groups;<br />1) Governments and politicians<br />2) Donors and NGOs<br />3) Private Investors (recently from China, India, Turkey and UAE)<br />These programmes have many different agendas, objectives and ways of working. However, they have few common characteristics. However, they have few common positions;<br />Most of these programmes suggest that the service coverage and service levels need to improve. They suggest that large scale investments are needed. They promote technologies for efficiency and/or for the purpose of demonstration. They rely on external consultants and contractors. They feel that the local capacity is poor and they also believe that training and toolkits can build skills on entrepreneurship. More recently they also talk about climate mitigation and its links with waste management. <br />None of the above come-up with more clear thinking on how to build on the existing strengths – which are discussed above.<br />With the use of few examples, I would like to discuss, how and why such approaches are not sustainable. In Karachi, one of the ex Prime Ministers introduced the concept of Garbage Train in a large public gathering. This only operated for few weeks and closed down because of health, safety and operational difficulties. In Bangladesh hundreds of communal compost plants were established as demonstration projects, funded by donors and managed by NGOs. So far, no private sector and government replicated it and they continue to rely on external funding. In Karachi, one of the International Financing Institutions would like to fund the landfill sites and waste trucks. The trucks served the city but the landfill site, was totally controlled by waste pickers. The landfill experiment in Dhaka is more locally owned and still operational.<br />Looking at such examples across many countries and in many projects, few general questions come to practitioners mind; <br />Is there still a strong link between international aid and trade in practice?<br />Is there a better understanding between local corruption and international loans/ investments?<br />Who really should care about the poor?<br />Who should look at the big picture and especially interconnectedness between various narratives? <br />To change the above situation, some fundamental changes are needed how we think about development. This may take another two decades or more. In my opinion, STEPS concept, provides a hope for influencing development practice. For this lecture, I thought of 5 possibilities; <br />1) A truly Independent and relevant research to define problem, pathways (alternatives) and outcome. As most of the research is dominated by certain narratives, there is a serious gap on independent research, leading to alternative pathways. Universities, especially students work is usually more independent. This needs to be connected to university research and its uptake on the ground. <br />2) Independent and accessible information about projects, policies, finances etc. locally available, in relevant form and creation of space to debate, discuss and bring alternatives from a local and real perspective. In Karachi Urban Resource Centre (URC), have been trying this. <br />3) Many of us support democracy at the government level, but it needs to translate in the working of governments, their policies and programmes. It is a democratic right of the citizens to access information about development projects, their costing, actors etc. This needs to be promoted.<br />4) Promotion of honest professional practices internationally. Large number of practitioners educated and supported to say no to socially and environmentally damaging projects. They must be fined or lead to prosecution if the project fails. <br />5) Need to establish citizens links, for example, Karachi-Dhaka-Brighton Citizens Alliance. Citizens, pro-poor professionals and media in the North and South talking to each other. This is important to raise public awareness in the North on the issues of international development and democracy in practice.<br /> <br />Thank You <br />Dr Mansoor Ali, Practical Action<br />mansali@practicalaction.org.uk<br />STEPS Centre 2-Part Seminar, 1-2.30, 12 March, IDS 221<br />Are there any secret millionaires in waste?<br />The framings of real waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka<br />Waste systems of recycling and collection in many developing countries is a relevant context to discuss and debate the application of STEPS concept in practice. Waste systems fully cuts across environmental sustainability, livelihoods, poverty and technologies – most of the evergreen agenda in international development. Everyday more than 10 million waste pickers earn their living from waste separation; more than 20 million poor people work in waste recycling and collection systems and a substantial amount of aid and charitable money is used to ‘modernise or globalised’ this sector. However, when it comes to practice, the real actors, systems and their analysis is frequently ignored and a technocratic versus philanthropists divide quickly emerge. Some research has been done on this subject, papers published and toolkits developed – but the practical application, financing mechanisms and government policies are still far from recognising this sector. Mansoor Ali has worked extensively on this subject and will speak about the potential opportunities and actual tension in waste systems in practice. He will be concluding the talk by suggesting how concepts like STEPS can be extremely useful in practice. <br />Modernisation and Globalisation of Waste Systems and their Dvide with the Real Systems<br />While the contribution of these so called informal systems is evident, we still do not understand fully why they are still not considered as modern and global. Who sets the narrative and why? Waste reduction is a global agenda and an important part of modern approaches to achieve sustainable development. Waste systems in Karachi and Dhaka are doing this for many years? But they are still considered backward. Waste systems are well connected to the global economies, through the imports and exports of scrap materials. Then why we need institutional reforms to make this sector ‘internationally recognized and globally connected’? What is real and what is sustainable? Do we know? <br />Who is setting the agenda and why? The second part, using examples will raise the above questions. <br />Bio;<br />Mansoor Ali completed a PhD on this subject in 1997 and between 1992 until now has extensively observed and listened to waste recyclers, waste collectors and to those who make decisions about them. He has looked at this more deeply in Pakistan and Bangladesh, while relatively superficially in Africa and Eastern Europe. Mansoor worked for WEDC, Loughborough University and now works with Practical Action, UK. He is still very excited about this subject, but also feels guilty that besides many PhDs (including his own), papers and research funds, millions of waste workers continue to face hardships of life and are frequently ignored in development practice.<br />

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