Lahore’s sanitation faces risk as ‘corruption’ looms

Crisis indicated by recurring 'Saaf Lahore' project

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LWMC grapples with escalating corruption and inexperienced officers, leading to a recurring ‘Saaf Lahore’ programme.

The Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC), entrusted with a substantial annual budget of Rs16 billion for city cleaning, is facing a critical setback as escalating corruption and the influx of inexperienced officers compromise the city’s sanitation system.

This dire situation has resulted in the recurring launch of the “Saaf Lahore Zero Waste Programme” every two months, highlighting the crisis at hand.

In an effort to enhance transparency within the company’s cleaning and curative functions, CEO Sahib Deen Babar restructured LWMC into two distinct sections. However, the presence of an inexperienced team has impeded effective garbage disposal, leading to the frequent initiation of the Saaf Lahore Zero Waste Program.

Presently, more than three thousand containers scattered across the city lie in a state of disrepair, rendering them unfit for waste collection. This subpar performance has caused trash to accumulate on the streets, exacerbating the city’s sanitation challenges.

While major highways manage to maintain a relatively better level of cleanliness, the condition of local streets and alleys continues to deteriorate, contributing to an unpleasant surge in foul odours in these areas.

Most distressingly, underprivileged neighbourhoods such as Dataganj Bakhsh, Ravi, Sumanabad, Iqbal Town, and Gulbarg Zone bear the brunt of poor sanitation conditions. Even the Nishtar Zone and Aziz Bhatti Zone have not been exempted from public dissatisfaction.

Despite presenting positive performance reports to CEO Sahib Deen Babar, selective highlighting of improved areas, sometimes misleadingly, occurs during his visits.

During a recent inspection, CEO Babar mandated the immediate replacement of dilapidated containers along various highways in Gulbarg. His directives encompassed ensuring cleanliness on main roads and local streets alike, with round-the-clock attendance of sanitary workers in all shifts.

The task of addressing the city’s sanitation crisis has become increasingly challenging due to the inexperienced team’s presence. To address the urgency of the matter, the CEO has introduced daily zero-waste initiatives at temporary collection points citywide.

On the other hand, within LWMC’s procurement department, Deputy CEO Muhammad Fahad oversees a budget allocation of approximately Rs7.5 billion for salaries and over Rs1.05 billion for expenses such as fuel. Of concern is the allocation of more than seven billion rupees for workshops, advertisements, and other areas. This financial leakage primarily stems from officers seeking substantial commissions, derailing the organization’s planning and cleanliness objectives.

Insiders suggest that LWMC officials appear to favour short-term fixes over sustainable projects, leaving initiatives like waste-to-energy composting, door-to-door waste collection, acquiring proper dumping points, and separate waste sales in limbo.

Shaheer Gul Khan is a final-year student of English Literature at Government College University (GCU) Lahore. Strives to create a challenging and engaging environment having editor skills in freelancing, a goal-oriented. He can be reached at Twitter @HafizShaheerGu1.