It’s always the poorest who live in the dirtiest places and suffer ill health as a result. Why? Because they can’t afford private waste collections and the government tends to ignore them. That’s why the Pakistan Mission Society, supported by Tearfund, has set up the Saaf Mahol Waste Hub. Working in areas that currently openly dump, they collect waste from 800 households daily, soon increasing to 4000.

With a charge of Rs100/month (about 57 pence) for a daily collection, local people from the same community have been employed as collectors. Known as “E-Guards” (environmental guardians), they use hand carts to collect the waste from each door and bring back to the nearby Waste Hub, where it is hand sorted. Local residents monitor 3 or 4 streets, ensuring a high quality service. Around 70% is composted, 10% is dry recyclables sorted for collection and 20% taken to the municipal dumpsite.

A happier and stronger community

The impacts are obvious as soon as you enter. Cleaner streets, the few open dumps remaining have clearly not been added to in months (these will be cleared as part of an ongoing programme). Conversations with residents show further benefits. Since the scheme started in early October, average family medical bills have dropped by 1500Rs/month and respiratory problems due to open burning and sickness due to malaria has also decreased. Open dumps that used to attract scavenging animals and drug addicts looking for recyclables are no longer there. The community has said it is happier and stronger – delighted to have taken control of their own environment.

As part of its aim to ensure that proper waste management is part of mainstream global development, WasteAid is helping other established charities get it right – there’s a lot of waste out there and we need to work together to address it. That’s why we’re in Pakistan, advising on the development of their community waste management collections, helping them increase the value of their recyclables, develop value chains for new materials and strengthen the sustainability of the project.

We’re also taking the opportunity to train Tearfund Pakistan, PMS and an a number of other local organisations from across the country.

In Islamabad, the next step is to roll out to the next community – Essa Nagi. The contrast with Saaf Mahol couldn’t be greater – massive open dumping int a local river, endemic gastro-eteritis and open burning. They can’t wait for collections to start in the coming weeks. They have 100% commitment from all 300 households and are ready to go…

A dog guards a former open dump site

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