Lahore was a happening city on Eid ul Azha this past week, as people joyously participated in the rituals associated with the festive religious occasion. It was business as usual except for one thing: the streets and roads in most non-posh residential areas were a gross picture of filth.
If you happened to cross any such street on the eid days, you would be condemned to bear with the sight and stench of animal offal — intestines, blood and the like, all of which wasn’t removed until much later.
There were places where the people had dumped the entrails of the sacrificed animals, reportedly because they weren’t able to catch hold of a Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) worker or the shopping bags they would otherwise be provided with, every year. The situation was totally unlike what they had experienced in the past many years. The people remembered how the company workers would stand outside their doors to collect the waste and carry it to the dumping site in Lakhodair.
The question arises as to what were the reasons that led to this situation and even triggered a war of words between Lord Mayor of Lahore, Col (retd) Mubashar Javed and the LWMC officials including its acting chairman. While the mayor appeared on local TV channels and admitted that the city looked orphaned on eid day, the deputy commissioner, who is also the acting chairman of LWMC, did not waste time in countering the statement and termed the ongoing operation cleanup as outstanding. It is feared that if the tussle continues, and the outstanding issues aren’t resolved, the citizens might face graver issues related to cleanliness in days to follow.
TNS talked to a number of people, and got an important insight into the goings-on. Muhammad Yousaf, a political worker affiliated with the PML-N, said the real cause of the mess was the local government representatives not being kept in the loop, “The people were left at the mercy of the demoralised LWMC staff that is facing NAB inquiries.
“Over the past many years, the chairmen of different union councils and the councillors worked as a bridge between the LWMC staff and the people; they would make sure they delivered waste bags at every doorstep. But this time around, the company staff sat idle most time of the day at their camp. The worst part of the story is that the people were not told in advance that the local government representatives would suddenly become extinct. The oversized shopping bags are much needed as people are supposed to shift waste to the collection points.”
On the other hand, an LWMC source claimed that around 18,000 workers had been deployed on the eid day, camps were set up at the UC level to clean the city, and a helpline (1139) was also introduced. The source said that the local government representatives had not been engaged this time mainly because the department wanted service delivery to be free of any political influence. Further, the union council chairmen were not provided with shopping bags for distribution to people who could get their quota of bags against their CNIC number at the camps.
LWMC Acting MD Farrukh Qayyum Butt said the mayor’s statement “demoralised the workers who work against all odds to keep the city clean. No doubt there have been delays, mainly due to rains in certain parts of the city on eid day, but overall the situation is satisfactory.
“There are many areas where the company vehicles cannot access, so the waste has to be removed through handcarts and wheel burrows which takes time.”
Butt insisted that the company’s performance on the eid days “wasn’t as bad as it is being made out to be: Consider the tonnage of waste we removed this year, which is equal to what we did last year [on Eid ul Azha] too.”
The PML-N worker challenged the argument: “They could have picked up the trash at night time, couldn’t they?
“Their tonnage figures may be good but the long time lapses between generation of the waste and its disposal must be accounted for.”
No doubt the administrative issues and the tussle with the local government representatives have affected the performance of the LWMC adversely, but there are other related issues to consider as well. For instance, the Turkish companies Al-Bayrak and Ozpak, contracted by the LWMC, have long faced financial problems due to the non-clearance of their dues by the provincial government; hence, they are unable to deliver.
Similarly, the LWMC is yet to be paid the dues worth Rs5 billion by the government.
Yet another matter of concern is that the company could not make the necessary arrangements in time before eid due to shortage of funds.
Lahore Deputy Commissioner and Lahore Waste Management Company Acting Chairman Captain (retd) Anwar ul Haq hopes that things will improve soon, “The performance of the company that has faced NAB inquiries and cash crunch and which has been without a full-time MD for long, ought to have suffered. But the situation is fast improving. The liabilities of the LWMC shall be cleared soon, and advertisements placed internationally for hiring once the contracts of Turkish companies Al-Bayrak and Ozpak expire this year.”