Solid waste management for environment conservation: How Pakistan can achieve SDG 13

United Nations’ Members States agreed on seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on September 25, 2015 to make huge development on various factors by 2030. Amongst those 17 goals, the SDG 13 is related to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The article reviews the solid waste management procedures in Pakistan and its impact on environment conversation to achieve SDG 13.

The major issue in Pakistan, particularly in the urban areas, is dumping the garbage as a waste material — something unpleasant that must be abandoned. This empirical reality concerned with solid waste management, which can be seen on the roads in daily routine. If someone contemplates any metropolis, he has always concentrated his attention on collection and disposal, never considering recycling for future. The solid waste management industry operates as a strategically linked “process chain,” with management beginning, even before garbage generation, intending to lower waste generation levels, such as enforcing or encouraging decreased packaging. The household then serves as a vital point for reuse, recycling, and segregation, considerably lowering the amount of garbage that needs to be collected properly and transported.

The state of Pakistan’s solid waste management is a strange source of concern, as more than 5 million people die each year as a result of garbage-related diseases. Pakistan generates around 20 million tonnes of solid waste each year, with a 2.4 percent annual increase rate. Karachi, the country’s largest city, produces almost 9,000 tonnes of municipal waste every day. Whether it’s Islamabad, Lahore, or Peshawar, all large cities have huge hurdles in dealing with the problem of urban trash. Lack of urban planning, outmoded infrastructure, a lack of public awareness, and widespread corruption are the fundamental causes of Pakistan’s rising waste problem. As the world’s sixth most populous country, there is a tremendous quantity of consumption, and with it, a significant deal of waste management. Pakistan’s waste management sector, like that of other developing countries, is beset by a slew of social, cultural, regulatory, and economic challenges.

More rubbish is generated in the country than the available waste management facilities accessible. The following are some of the significant issues regarding waste management, which ultimately help to achieve SDG 13. The waste material is openly dumped. Various types of waste are not collected separately in different chambers and sanitary landfill sites are not supervised technically. The citizens are oblivious to the link between irresponsible garbage disposal, as well as the threats to the environment and public health which it entails.

As a consequence of these challenges, debris is piling up along the roadsides, canals, and other public spaces, and waste material burning have become popular, exposing harmful toxins and hurting human and environmental health. There are fewer dump sites operating lawfully today in metropolitan cities across the country. Permanent landfills are few even in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. In Lahore, Punjab’s capital and Pakistan’s second-largest city, the informal sector recycles roughly 27% of waste (by weight), however, there are currently no controlled waste disposal facilities or formal recycling systems. Lahore’s government management is equally ineffective, when it comes to waste collection. This situation daunts achievement of SDG 13 for Pakistan.

The debris alongside the highways degrades environment for a variety of flies, mosquitos etc. to grow, posing a threat to human health as well as the ecosystem’s well-being. The poor solid waste management in Pakistan has led to an increased diseases and environmental concerns. The present linear economic paradigm in Pakistan makes Prime Minister’s “Clean and Green” objective grimed to accomplish. The establishment of a circular economic system, headed by the government laws, industry-standard development, business incentives, green financing, stakeholder awareness, and knowledge generation, and enterprise innovation, is required for the green economic transformation. The implementation of Green Banking by the State Bank of Pakistan plays a critical part in the development of a circular economy. Green funding, which is a component of Green Banking, should be made available to creative businesses that incorporate circular economy principles and practices into their business models. For environmental and social sustainability, the government should provide various tax incentives or requisite subsidies to enterprises that implement circular economic principles. The commercial banks can use green finance to emphasize specific economic sectors for circular economy-based initiatives, such as Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises at the start-up or scale-up stage, women-owned small businesses, and agricultural and livestock.

Green finance schemes can extend low-interest loans for waste recovery plants, such as the waste glass being turned into the new glass, recycling paper, bioplastic production, environmentally friendly SME firms, and channel financing for green supply chain partners. The government should concentrate on creating waste-to-energy and waste heat recovery systems that can generate electricity, while recycling or properly disposing of waste in metropolitan cities of the country. Various industries can adopt the circular economic model by establishing cyclical resource acquisition, consumption, and recycling processes. For example, the banking industry could offer consumers incentives to return expired credit/debit cards to the bank for recycling rather than throwing them away and contributing to the country’s plastic pollution.

This economic revolution is not a one-time event, and it is not entirely dependent on industrial restructuring. In reality, it is a shift in the mindsets, behaviors, and priorities of all the stakeholders involved. Many things should change mindset, policies, priorities, and the governance architecture that supports them, to achieve a zero-waste objective. The system has been rendered dysfunctional by the introduction of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board, which serves a sector that is best managed at a decentralized, grassroots level. But a decentralized as well as well-planned system is need of the time.

An enabling policy and regulatory framework should be established to attract private enterprises. Meanwhile, the best practices should be rewarded and indigenously produced technologies should be fostered. This is critical in designing the sustainable cities, because associated cross-cutting benefits such as a greener city, increased economic prosperity, a healthier city with lower health costs, and revitalized public spaces should be captured by reclaiming and designing vibrant public spaces that are currently contaminated with the garbage. It is not too difficult to achieve SDG 13, but a regular bottom-up triumph by all the stakeholders including masses, industrialists, government is needed for a sustainable industrial development.

Department of Economics, National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad

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