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Lahore Cleans up Its Act

by Jawwad Rizvi

A smart city promises quality of life to its residents by effectively and efficiently managing its solid waste.

Efficient management of waste—one of the most important byproducts of an urban lifestyle—is an essential element when we talk about smart cities.

With growing urbanization, we not only face challenges related to governance, security, mobility, and economy, but also waste disposal which can have a serious environmental and health impact.

In Brief

  • The growing urbanization has an increasing impact on the environment too, as high amount of solid waste is being generated by the residents. Therefore, while converting big urban centers into smart cities efficient handling of solid waste also becomes a prerequisite for the cities of tomorrow.

According to a World Bank report, “What a Waste? A Global Review of Solid Waste Management“, the amount of municipal solid waste is growing faster than even the rate of urbanization. The report estimates that by 2025, urban residents will likely increase to 4.3 billion generating about 1.42 kilograms per capita per day of municipal solid waste (2.2 billion tons per year).

A poor solid waste management system can cause contamination of soil and water, emission of Green House Gases (GHG), and increase in suspended particles, seriously affecting the environmental resources, economy and health of citizens.

A smart city promises quality of life to its residents by effectively and efficiently managing its solid waste. By doing so smart cities improve the environment and lessen health risks. The smart and intelligent disposal of solid waste can have a positive economic impact too, through recycling and reuse of the waste.

LWMC: A Smart Start to Manage Solid Waste

With the tech-support from the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) is efficiently managing over 5,000 tons of daily waste generated by the residents of Lahore—the provincial metropolis of Punjab province.

The LWMC waste management model is presently based on monitoring, collection, transportation, and disposal of the waste while an ambitious plan of processing and recycling the waste is in the pipeline.

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The LWMC is ensuring mechanical sweep of 1,387 kilometers area per day with its 31 vehicles besides mechanically washing 112 kilometers area per day including 129 roads with 14 vehicles with real-time tracking of the en route vehicles. Its Operations Control Room is aided with Video Wall Technology for operational monitoring, mid-course correction, gaps identification and operational analysis. Under the Vehicle Trip Counting System, the LWMC carries out real-time monitoring of trips and load of its vehicles by using IP cameras. Even monitoring of speed limit of the vehicles involved in the process of managing waste is noted.

An Android Digital Attendance Monitoring System is also in place, which ensures real-time pictorial evidence of workers in all 150 Union Councils (UCs) at 844 assembly points, while its reporting interface also depicts detail of present and absent workers at starting and closing time.

“Our vision is to transform the city of Lahore as one of the cleanest cities in the world by providing customized solutions, in consultation with citizens and private partners to ensure sustainable, safe, clean and green environment,” says Nusrat Tufail Gill, the LWMC’s general manager Planning.

Lahore Waste Management Company was established in 2010 under section 42 of the Companies Ordinance 1984, by the City District Government, Lahore (CDGL) to efficiently address solid waste management issues facing Lahore.

Later on, the LWMC made a consultancy agreement with the Istanbul-based International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) for the capacity building of the company. The Turkish company helped the LWMC with the institutional structure of the organization, while for the first time, per waste characterization study was also conducted in Lahore.

After an international competitive and transparent bidding process, the LWMC outsourced solid waste management to two Turkish waste management companies, Albayrak and Ozpak. Both of these companies are now responsible for waste collection, transportation, mechanical sweep and wash within their respective zones. Lahore is divided into 150 UCs which are strategically allotted between Albayrak and Ozpak to ensure effective management of waste. The total cost of the project is $320 million, spanning seven years.

The major intervention of LWMC, with respect to its waste disposal strategy, is to establish a sanitary landfill site. The construction of two lots of the landfill is completed and it’s operational now, confirms Nusrat Tufail Gill. According to him, the LWMC’s waste disposal strategy is to scientifically dispose of 500 to 2,000 tons of waste daily in the landfill site, while the rest of the waste is treated or recycled for composting, refuse-derived fuel (RDF) and waste to energy interventions. He also says, “LWMC is providing 500 to 800 tons of waste to Lahore Compost for making compost by windrow composting. Similarly, the LWMC has signed an agreement with DG Khan Cement for sale of waste,” he says and adds, “DG Khan Cement has built a RDF plant for processing of 1,000 tons of municipal waste.”

In order to improve the customer satisfaction level, the LWMC has established a Complaint Redressal System (CRS) wherein citizens can lodge their complaints round the clock through a universal access code denoting 1139 regarding cleanliness issues. These complaints are efficiently addressed by LWMC staff within the prescribed time. The complaints are forwarded to LWMC field staff and independently confirmed with the citizens by the service provider—an internationally recognized firm which carries out its functions independently. The calls of citizens and call agents are recorded to ensure transparency of the system.

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The Need

According to Khawaja Ahmed Hassan, Punjab Chief Minister’s Advisor, a lack of political will was behind the late start vis-à-vis smart handling of solid waste. “Our government tried to organize solid waste management, back in 1998-99 for the first time. We also got rid of the ghost workforce by doing a head count of the sanitary workers and opening up of their salary accounts at the bank. Within a month, we had saved PKR 2.5 million,” he recalls fondly. He conceded that it remained a neglected sector under the watch of successive governments, “they did not pay much heed to waste management, only when PML-N government came into power again, did we resume work on this area,” asserts Khawaja Ahmed Hassan.  “A team was sent to Istanbul to study Turkish waste management system and replicate it in Lahore,” he said while explaining how the LWMC was conceived.

“Today, LWMC is lifting almost 100 percent declared waste in Lahore. Some variation of 2.5 to 3 percent occurs in lifting up of waste due to technical or weather related issues which are also being addressed.”

“We are converting the existing landfill site, Mehmood Booti, into a park. In the next six months, it will start giving a look of a green site, instead of a garbage heap. ISTAC is also assisting us in it too,” Khawaja Ahmed Hassan says and adds “We are also working on a waste to energy project.”

Expansion of Smart Waste Management

“Following the success of the Lahore Waste Management Company, the government has decided to expand the same model to other five cities of Punjab,” says Dr. Nasir Javed, the CEO of The Urban Unit who is also one of the directors of the LWMC. He believes, a total of nine such companies should be established, one of each at a divisional headquarter in Punjab.

About a pilot project in Sahiwal district, Dr. Nasir Javed says, “We are establishing a recyclable plant to ensure zero waste.” A conveyor belt will be installed within the plant, where litter will be automatically sorted by using different technologies to separate iron, plastic, paper and other materials. All recyclable materials will be removed from the litter, while remaining waste will be used for making organic compost, he adds.

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“So Sahiwal city will not need any landfill site, while the plant will also be more environment friendly,” he hopes. According to him a similar plant has been proposed for Sundar Industrial Estate (SIE) Lahore where a proposed land is available for landfill site.

“We want to install such plants in all major cities in Punjab in the next five years,” says the Urban Unit’s CEO adding “In the next five years, we will have the smartest solutions for waste management.”

Jawwad Rizvi is a senior economic correspondent at The News International, a leading English daily.

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