After Karachi and Lahore, it’s now Multan that has been in the news over lack of cleanliness and poor waste management. A month-long special cleanliness drive has been ordered by the acting Deputy Commissioner, but the Multan Waste Management Company says it has the capacity to lift only 800 tonnes of waste — of the 1,000 tonnes that Multan produces — owing to the lack of resources and manpower. The rest accumulates onto roadsides, blocking drainage systems.

The Poor Waste Management problem, unfortunately, runs deeper and wider. Karachi — which produces about 13,500 tons of solid waste, 40% of which can be found on the city streets — is pretty notorious in the context. Recently, Lahore has also witnessed a surge in the number of complaints about garbage issues as well, owing to the negligence of the Lahore Waste Management Company. Not many realize that Pakistan is slowly moving towards a country-wide waste crisis. A staggering 48.5 million tons of solid waste is generated across the country per year. The country severely lacks waste management infrastructure to cope with the annual 2% increase in waste generation. While other developing countries have come up with innovative ways of producing energy from waste — with some even importing it — Pakistan resorts to burning, dumping, or burying its generated waste on vacant lots and landfill sites. This is not only threatening the health and welfare of citizens but is also adding to environmental degradation. At the same time, one cannot ignore that lack of urban planning, bureaucratic hurdles, and low public awareness contribute equally to the problem.

The solution for Poor Waste Management, however, is not just in punishing those involved in throwing waste. Instead, there needs to be an integrated waste management system in all large cities of Pakistan. Hazardous waste needs to be separated from biodegrading waste before it can be used for recycling or producing energy. Authorities can also look into exporting waste since many countries have already shown interest in buying. There are many untapped opportunities, but will the officials do the needful?