The following is a paper read and circulated by the CEO of Gul Bahao, Nargis Latif among the 400 participants of a South Asian Conference on Sanitation held in Kathmandu recently.
Case for Internationalizing Pakistan’s First Research Centre on Waste management
The port city of Karachi having 20 million souls is the 6th most populated metropolis of the world generating more than 12,000 tons of garbage in a single day. In addition its economic wealth at this point in time (which is seeing rapid industrialization) makes it an ideal case study in waste management. What is more an organization by the name of Gul Bahao, an environment based organization during a period of 20 years and a budget of more than $90,000 has succeeded in covering several aspects of waste management from small extremely simple but highly effective products like mobile toilets to a most sophisticated futuristic concept like the Garbage n Gold Bank, it has dwelt into multiple dimensions of waste management. A massive campaign called “You give us garbage, we give you Gold” was conducted for more than 2 years which inter alia invited people especially the vibrant cottage industry and the informal economy to separate garbage at source.
The philosophy of Gul Bahao (literally meaning Flow flowers) is that there is a close nexus between environment and the economy. That garbage is in fact raw material for both industry and agriculture. At Gul Bahao Centre, research on both macro and micro level is been conducted.
The world over waste material is being used creatively but more for decoration purposes. Plastic packing material forms a bulk of inorganic waste. Then furniture is being made from packing material. The world famous “Silver block” a modular block designed at the Centre and used alternately as swimming pool, a two storied house etc. The raw material used is plastic waste which is otherwise burnt in the streets of Karachi causing toxic fumes and severe air pollution. The usefulness of these recycled products ensures that their raw material will not be mixed up with other kinds of organic waste.
At the centre the researched products are commercially viable products like cattle feed, Instant Compost Fuel Packets (Look at the attached pamphlet). As a result of Gul Bahao’s persistence in advocating recycling of gutter water two important steps were taken by the government of the day. One of these was a ban on using fresh water in lawns and encouraging use of gutter water in horticulture so that fresh water is not polluted by sewage water. This lead to a healthy growth of nurseries using gutter water. Secondly during the time of sacrifices of animals the offal’s and other organic waste used to be lying around for days in the streets. But a proposal from the Research Centre to the local bodies to bury en-mass the entrails and other filth of the dead animals lead to a complete change in the situation.
Thousands of people consisting of University students, NGOs, government officials and school going children as well as the media have visited the Research Centre. Its website is very mush visited and even used for writing theses by research students. It is located in one of the most developed areas of the metropolis, right on the main road.
We are all conscious of the fact that environment degradation cannot be allowed to go unchecked. On the other hand to say that industrialization and development must be stopped because of environmental pollution they create is not a workable solution. The answer lies in conducting research with different kinds of materials being thrown up by industry and human life. Attempts in this direction have been extremely fruitful. Not only have they helped in controlling pollution and unsanitary conditions they have led to innovations of great use to people.
The time has now come for the world community to avail the fruits of this research facility located in the metropolis of Karachi. The Gul Bahao Research Centre has been there for the last twenty years and can be linked up with other organizations the world over through internet facilities as well as through visits. What is important is financial help to keep it sustainable. Waste management is a very challenging subject. At this point, I appeal to organizations all over the world to chip in and help sustain this facility, with the aim of helping to control environmental degradation.