Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Five Asian Success Stories - 2

Waste Concern in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka has a population of about 10 million in an area of only 360 km. It is estimated that the population of Dhaka will be 19.5 million by 2015. Each day about 3500 tonnes of solid waste material is generated in the city. In the slums where over 30% of the population lives, there was no collection service which meant that tons of material daily was winding up in the storm drains, streets, marketplaces, slums, open dumps, vacant lots, and along riverbanks. In 1995, Waste Concern started a pilot community-based composting plant in Mirpur, Dhaka on land donated by a local club. The project involved setting up a number of small-scale composting enterprises in different neighborhoods whose activities included house-to-house waste collection, composting of the collected waste and marketing of compost and recyclable materials.
After three years, the Ministry of Environment and Forest with the support from UNDP, wanted to replicate the model in 5 additional neighborhoods. The Sustainable Environmental Management Program (SEMP) was established. Waste Concern asked government agencies to provide land, water and electrical connections for community-based composting facilities. Waste materials are gathered house-to-house throughout neighborhoods in converted rickshaw vans. Each van has a part-time driver and one or two waste collectors, and serves 300-400 households. Households pay on average 20-35 cents per month to have their waste collected. This covers the salary of the van drivers and waste collectors as well as operating and maintenance costs. The composting plants are the hearts of the operation. After the rickshaws deliver the waste, it is sorted into organic waste, recyclable materials and rejects. Recyclables are resold into the solid waste recycling stream. Rejects are collected by the local government and taken to the landfill. The remaining organic waste is converted into compost using a low-tech method that does not produce bad smells (this is important because the composting plants are located near homes rather than in industrial areas).

The organic waste is piled around a bamboo rack to allow a good circulation of air which speeds up the breakdown of the waste. Sawdust is mixed with the waste to increase the air content. The pile is turned frequently in order to maintain the temperature and to ensure equal decomposition throughout the pile. Water is used to speed up decomposition. Adding manure increases the nitrogen in the compost. The pile is then left to mature. The whole process takes 60 days. The compost is then separated into fine and coarse grades and packed into 50kg bags for sale. Waste Concern has partnered with private companies for the marketing of the compost and recyclable materials. Each plant produces 500-600kg of compost daily by processing 2-3 tons of household waste. This involves six workers, mostly women.

Another central component of the project is the establishment of waste management committees in each neighborhood where a composting facility operates. Members of the committees are mostly women. They are trained in collection, waste separation, composting and marketing. Waste Concern provides technical assistance and training to help them manage, operate and maintain the composting enterprises. After one year of community mobilizing and training, Waste Concern transfers the project to the community while continuing to monitor it for three more years.

Waste Concern also helps communities sell their compost locally to fertilizer companies and plant nurseries. Each 50kg bag of compost sells for US $2.50- $4.50. One of the factors fuelling the expansion of Waste Concern is growing demand for enriched compost.

One of the biggest obstacles faced was availability of land. Land prices in Dhaka were in a period of significant increase and local officials were reluctant to release civic land for private sector use. It was only through demonstrating the pilot project’s effectiveness, establishing a network of support within the local bureaucracy, and providing an inventory of vacant and available land that enabled them to get the support of the Dhaka City Corp. and the Public Works Department who agreed to provide land to expand the composting facilities. Another obstacle was marketing the compost. Partnerships with experienced private fertilizer marketing companies who had an extensive network all over Bangladesh solved this problem. The long-term viability of the program depended on expanding a market for the compost; a great deal of time and effort was invested in developing partnerships with private companies. Currently, the project employs 40 waste collectors/composting staff, providing services to 37,500 people in low-to-middle income areas of Dhaka. There are five Community Processing Plants and five slums with Barrel Composting Systems.

Waste Concern
House-21(Side B), Road-7, Block-G, Banani Model Town,
Dhaka-1213, Bangladesh
Tel: 880-2-9884774 or 880-2-9873002
Fax: 880-2-9564732 or 880-2-9884774

Goal: Improve the environment by promoting waste recycling activities in the country; conduct research, experiments on solid waste management, recycling, clinical and hazardous waste management, waste water treatment and organic farming; develop community/private sector/municipal partnership for improvement of urban environment; create job opportunity by promoting recycling of waste
Project Focus: Waste Reduction, Community Economic Development, Citizen Participation, Market Mechanisms
Staff: Industrial engineers, government employees, loan managers, micro-entrepreneurs
Length of Project: Started 1995…on-going
Budget Operating Costs: 209,000 Taka or US$4,100
Operating Revenues: 526,000 Taka or US$10,500
Partners: national government, private sector, NGOs, research organizations, communities and farmers
Funders: UNDP; UNICEF; OXFAM, UK; RUDO-South Asia/USAID; The World Bank; Swiss Development Agency for Cooperation; Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

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