Yesterday, the CEO of Gul Bahao was invited as chief guest at Textile Institute of Pakistan (TIP). The occasion was the launching ceremony of a boat made from used pet bottles. Escorted by young female students of the institute, Nargis sat in the boat rowed by the girls. It was a delightful occasion for all those Karachites who had traveled from the heart of the city to witness the innovation.
The TIP is located at the edge of the city, near Ghaggar Phattak on 32 acres of land. It has been developed by a well known architect. Right in the middle of the lush greenery of the campus is a lake on which the boat was sailing. A good deal of mathematics must have gone into the “bottled boat” as even a strong wind failed to over turn it while the combined weight of the “passengers” did not sink it.
Then followed a number of speeches at an improvised public meeting place with the lake in the background. In her maiden speech, the student organizer of tip Ammna Shahzad revealed that she and a couple of like minded students were tired of seeing all kinds of garbage littering the idyllic campus. The main “culprits” she said were plastic pet bottles. Both the faculty and the students decided to do something about it. The result she said was the “bottled boat”.
Highly enthused by her boat trip on the campus lake, Nargis Latif reminded the audience consisting of faculty and students of the tip of the teenager James Watt who discovered the steam engine and hence ushered in the industrial revolution. She talked of the youthful Wright brothers who while trying to emulate birds trying to fly in the air ended up inventing the modern airplanes. She also spoke in detail how her urge to clean up the metropolis of Karachi landed her with 21st century concepts, innovations which “nobody in the world had ever imagined” she said and which are meant to make life cheaper and easier, she claimed.
Talking in a more serious vein, the Gul Bahao head pointed to the natural disasters afflicting Pakistan from time to time. She warned the well fed “burger class” that god forbid Karachi can “drown in a river of gutter water.” she reminded that not very long ago a 24 yr. Hour downpour resulted in high speed waves sweeping away peoples belongings in the shanty towns of the metropolis. This has also happened in the elite south she said. The cause cited was the clogging of the drainage system because of poor solid waste management for a metropolis of Karachi’s size she said research is indispensable for any proper solution of its waste management system.
In his presidential speech the head of the institute Mr. Zarar Zubair, agreed that the best way to acknowledge the student’s innovation is to market it.
In the end, amidst thunderous applause, Nargis was presented with a plaque by Mr. Zarrar Zubair. Later on as a token of honor a tree was planted in Nargis Latif’s name.
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.
Yesterday, Gul Bahao’s Nargis Latif was invited to address a gathering of students at the Goethe Institute. The event was organized by the Children’s museum for Peace and Human Rights to high light the causes behind natural disasters especially in the current situation prevailing in the country.
Nargis Latif in her detailed speech said that Gul Bahao during its 16 years of existence has been giving solutions to seemingly intractable environmental problems. It has invariably linked the environment with economy. It has never indulged in breast beating about pollution levels about the destruction of the planet. It has always shown how we can have development and industry side by side with a clean environment. For instance dry recyclable waste may be collected in bins in such an organized manner that nothing remains to pollute and instead the industry and agriculture would gain through easy and cheap access to raw material.
She said that if we use paper bags instead of shopping bags we will be encouraging deforestation which will lead to large scale flooding. Nargis dwelt on a variety of topics ranging from factory effluents, to use of organic waste as fodder to the use of plastic waste in the use of building blocks (remember Chandi Ghar) is an innovation of Gul Bahao. She said that a sensible waste management system including recycling would go a long way in controlling desertification, deforestation and pollution of natural resources.
There was an intense interaction between the head of Gul Bahao and the participants of the seminar. Students wanted to know how they could help Gul Bahao. Citing the example of Al Noor School in Gul- shan e Iqbal, she said they asked their students to collect recyclable garbage from their friends, relations, neighbors on one particular day. After separation and weighing, it value was calculated at a little over nine thousand rupees. This was a donation from the school to the NGO (Gul Bahao). Nargis revealed that some other educational institutions including few universities have started donating their recyclable garbage to Gul Bahao. Referring to the devastation caused by the floods, Nargis suggested plan of action. According to her more than Rs 3 crore worth of waste is being thrown into the dumps of Karachi every day.
Even if a fraction of this is collected in an organized manner it could help in the relief and rehabilitation of the flood affectees. Nargis said that Gul Bahao during its 16 years of existence has gained ample expertise in this matter and has sold more than eight crores rupees worth of garbage so far.
In the meantime Nargis has appealed to all institutions banks, factories and others and even NGOs to use their recyclable waste for raising funds for the national calamity taking place in the country. Gul Bahao will send its transport and staff to collect the recyclable garbage.
Yesterday, Dr Irtefaq Ali, former V.C of Karachi University and well known Pakistani scientist introduced Nargis Latif, managing trustee, Gul Bahao to a gathering of senior professors and research scholars of the botany department of Karachi University. Describing Nargis Latif as an old student of the botany department, Dr Irtefaq highly appreciated Nargis’s research work in waste management. The professors said they were acquainted with Nargis’s research work as described in the media and said that trials on an organic fertilizer devised by her were conducted in the department by a former professor, Dr Swaliha Ahmed. Nargis said that research in waste management was a very exciting subject due to the sheer variety and volume of wastage one could experiment with. Nargis said that her “laboratory” was the real world with its problems and markets.
Nargis was informed by the head of the department Dr Zafar Iqbal that work was being done on the recycling of sewage water. Nargis said that she was campaigning for aforestation or greening of the sewage drains so that the dirty water does not enter the seas. She reminded that there is real danger to Karachi’s ports if factory effluents continue to be poured into the seas.
In the meantime Nargis spoke to a gathering of counselors of S.I.T.E and orangi towns who had gathered at the S.I.T.E association auditorium for a seminar arranged by the architecture department of the N.E.D University. Nargis Latif said that it was a rare occasion to see research workers addressing people’s problems. Our universities she said are by and large degree manufacturing factories only. According to her research is not a luxury. It is the need of the hour. Especially in waste management. She said “We cannot stop new kinds of wastage from coming up. Just as we cannot stop industrial progress”. She gave the example of her organization, Gul Bahao, which after years of research has come up with alternative blocks made from plastic waste.
Nargis Latif said that the approach to waste management should be recycling or commercial use of waste. The conventional method of collecting mixed garbage and taking it to land sites is unaffordable, outmoded and unnatural. The situation has become explosive because we are ignoring the agricultural or green aspect of the city as well as its informal cottage industry sector. She regretted that we have a very negative approach towards cattle pens. What is needed is a scientific and hygienic use of organic waste as fodder for livestock. Organic waste she said is ideal for rearing livestock and nurseries where apart from ornamental plants expensive medicinal plants can also be grown.
She said that aforestation needs to be done along the big nullahs of the city and its wood grown commercially to be used for growing furniture or fuel so ultimately less and less sewage water goes into the sea. She said an integrated approach is required to connect the U.Cs and recycling work. A system needs to be evolved where by the U.Cs may charge fees or rentals for the use of organic wastage separated at source. For instance cattle or sheep may be allowed to graze near Kachra Kundis where organic waste is separated. This grazing may be done for limited time that is from five o’clock to seven in the morning or late in the evening from six to nine. Similarly nurseries may be bound to buy organic waste for use as natural fertilizer. Also for dry or recyclable waste, junk shops may be encouraged to buy wastage from homes. She said that this will result in the withering away of the Kachra Kundis. According to her all these measures.
Nargis Latif said that the informal sector no doubt is playing a big role in recycling but it needs to be upgraded and managed and organized in scientific way. Scavenging she said is not the ultimate answer. Instead an integrated approach involving Kabaris, Counselors, research workers, livestock owners, nursery owners, house keepers and media should be taken.