KARACHI: Work resumed at the Jam Chakro landfill after a three-day break. It was brought to a standstill after the workers had gone off duty as the contractor had run out of finances to pay their wages. For the last one year work has not been a regular affair and came to a halt, recently.
The garbage landfill site is managed by Santec Technologies through a yearly agreement with the city government. The agreement binds the company to compress and move the garbage in the designated area, and cover it up. However, due to non-payment, the contactor is not able to carry out the task lately, according to a company official.
Santec official Naseebullah told this reporter that the monthly operational cost at the site is about 2.0-2.2 million rupees.
“Due to non payment from the CDGK, we find it extremely difficult to operate and maintain the site. Our agreement specifies a fortnightly payment schedule which is yet to be abided,” he said.
“Six months ago we were paid a paltry sum, enabling us to clear some of our outstanding payments but since then we have been operating using our own finances,” Naseebullah lamented.
The spiraling cycle of non-payments has had a drastic impact on the landfill workers who have not been paid their wages for the past six months. A landfill site worker complained, “We have never been paid our wages regularly and, for the last six months, not a paisa has been paid to us.”
Security guard Ghulam Husain, a father of seven, who works at the landfill site, lamented, “We are left with no choice but to send out our children to pick knick-knack from the garbage and sell it to bring home some bread.”
“We have become trash ourselves instead of just tending to it,” added another worker in an emotional outburst.
Workers complain that they often go without food because they don’t get paid regularly.
When Director, Solid Waste Management, City District Government Karachi, Najeeb Ahmed, was approached, he said that the CDGK is trying its best to arrange funds for the purpose, and some payments is expected to be made within a couple of days to keep the site running.
Najeeb Ahmed said that on April 27, Deputy Secretary, Administration, Government of Sindh, Dr Mustafa Suhag had directed the city administrator to release funds to make CDGK vehicles operable and to cover their fuel expenses so that the garbage disposal could be carried out. The matter was marked as ‘most immediate’. However, no action has been taken till the filing of this report.
“If the funds are not release immediately, the ongoing crisis could result in creating huge garbage heaps in the city,” he added.
He informed that the landfill site was announced in 2006, but dumping at this site had begun as early as 1996. It is home to half of Karachi’s solid waste. “About 2,500 to 3,000 tons of solid waste is dumped at Jam Chakro every day,” he said.
The city produces 9,000 tons of solid waste every day, of which 4,500-5,000 tons is received by CDGK for disposal. “The rest is disposed illegally or left within the towns as town administrations are also undergoing financial crunch. The disposal arrangement is such that towns are obligated to collect and transport solid waste to landfill sites located at Jam Chakro and at the other site at Hub Chowki.
“Waste from Korangi, Landhi, Malir, Shah Faisal, Gulshan, Jamshed, Liaquatabad, North Nazimabad, Gulberg and North Karachi is dumped at Jam Chakro,” he added.
A commemorative plaque suggests that the site was inaugurated in October 2006 by former city nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal. It says: “Inauguration of the project for Jam Chakro landfill site by developing ‘Semi-aerobic Scientific Landfill Site’ (first ever in Pakistan)”.
The road leading to the Jam Chakro landfill site is littered with garbage. The mounds of garbage reflect the neglect of its handlers and the management. Even the site office is surrounded by a storey-high garbage dump. Dumpers from various towns unload the trash on the roadside close to the office. The road leading to the designated site is thus blocked.
The workers had recently called a strike to protest non-payment of their long overdue wages. “We had gone on strike in April, but the police were called to beat us and force us to resume work,” claimed several workers. However, both the contractor and the CDGK official refuted the claim. “The site had undergone complete blockage due to random dumping,” the CDGK official said. Contractor Naseebullah said, “It was not a strike. However the works has ceased working because they were not paid their wages. We are committed to work and so is our workforce but due to non-payment we all find it impossible to continue the operations.”