AL men make Tk 4.5b in cash from trash
Unscrupulous leaders and activists of the ruling Awami League, along with local councillors in the capital city, are unlawfully making large sums of money from waste disposal. They had created a gang for collecting garbage from residences in Dhaka city.
The two Dhaka city corporations have no control over them and they are siphoning off Tk 4.5 billion every year from the hapless residents of the city.
In contrast, the Chattogram City Corporation and Rajshahi City Corporation directly collect garbage from the people’s homes and people do not have to pay any separate fee for the service.
In the capital city, the monthly charge for garbage collection was set by the city corporations at Tk. 30, but the AL men charge much higher. They do not provide receipts in most cases and the money they collect is not deposited to the city corporations.
As this has proven to be a lucrative business, they forcefully take up the garbage collection work and take control over different localities.
There are 129 wards in Dhaka city, 93 original and 36 newly added. Four correspondents of Prothom Alo recently visited 24 of the old 93 wards of the city, spending 12 days to get a picture of the city’s garbage ‘business’.
The people feel that the city corporations could easily put a halt to this business. In Chattogram and Rajshahi, the city corporation workers go from house to house to collect the garbage. These garbage collectors receive wages from the city corporation. The public pays taxes for such services.
The two Dhaka city corporations also charge taxes for waste disposal. Last fiscal this revenue collected from the people amounted to over Tk 1.5 billion. And yet the city corporation leaves the garbage collection up to the AL men who are minting money from the business.
Former chief election commissioner and former president of Gulshan Society ATM Shamsul Huda, speaking to Prothom Alo on the matter, said that political elements have entered the scene and look after their own vested interests. That is why the work is not being done professionally, he said. They are simply making money at will. The matter needs to be brought under control. He feels that the charges for garbage collection should be fixed in consultation with the local residents.
Dhaka city churns out about 5,500 tonnes of garbage every day. Most of this is collected from homes and restaurants. Yet the two city corporations do not collect this garbage directly. The city corporation cleaners collect the waste from the trash containers by the roadside or secondary transfer stations (STS).
Taking advantage of this situation, private companies have cropped up to collect the garbage from the homes and dump this in the roadside containers or STS. The city corporation trucks then carry this trash from these points to the Aminbazar or Matuail garbage dumps.
The private waste collection service providers (PWCSP) have to be registered with the city corporation. There are presently over 300 such companies registered with the two city corporations, though there are no policies in place for this.
There are also around 150 or more firms and individuals who collect garbage from the homes, without any registration with the city corporations. All of these are controlled by the ruling party cliques too.
Dhaka North city corporation mayor Atiqul Islam, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, the city corporations do not have the capacity to collect garbage from each and every house in the city. Assistance is being taken from private firms in this regard. They charge anything from Tk. 30 to Tk. 300 for the service, but this must be brought under control. The prices must be determined according to the area.
Despite the mayor’s claims, nowhere in the city is the waste collection charge only Tk. 30.
The Dhaka South city corporation chief waste management officer Air Commodore Zahid Hossain has said that they are thinking of increasing the charges for waste collection.
Tk 4.5 billion business
There are no accurate records of how much money is being extracted from the public for garbage collection services. However, an idea of the business could be drawn up from all those involved in the matter.
According to the city corporation, there are 395,855 holdings in the city and most of these have an average of 6 to 12 flats or houses each. Each flat is charged Tk. 150, totalling around Tk. 360 million a month. This is about Tk 4.32 billion annually.
Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association states there are over 7,000 restaurants in the city. Each restaurant is charged at least Tk. 2,000 a month for waste disposal.
The charges are even higher in the upscale localities. That means Tk. 14 million is collected from the 7,000 restaurants every month. This amounts to about Tk. 177 million a year.
Senior vice president of the restaurant owners association told Prothom Alo that the waste disposal charges are exorbitant, even going up to Tk. 5,000 a month. The city corporation does nothing and so the restaurant owners are forced to use this service.
In the hands of the ruling camp
A visit to 24 wards of the two units revealed that the local councillor and his men were controlling the garbage collection racket. In the other wards, the business was controlled by 24 AL men, 14 of Jubo League, 7 of Swecchhashebok League, 5 of Sramik League, 2 of Mahila League, 4 of Chhatra League, one of Krishak League and one of the Matshajibi League.
In Jigatola, most of the household garbage collection is controlled by the local councillor Mohammad Selim’s personal assistant Khalilur Rahman.
Khalilur Rahman told Prothom Alo that most of the registered waste disposal service in the area was carried out by his company, though he gave some of the work to local leaders and activists.
Dhaka waste disposal in controlled by local councillor and ward AL president Zakir Hossain and general secretary Faruk Khan. In Lalmatia this racket is run by the ward Sramik League president ABM Golam Nomani.
DNCC’s ward no. 19 Swecchhashebok League general secretary Liton Chandra Ghoshal and Banani thana Jubo League joint convenor Md Mamun control the garbage collection companies in Gulshan 1 and 2.
According to the city corporation registration, garbage collection for Gulshan roads 64 and 65 is run by Khadija Cleaning Service, owned by Abdus Sattar alias Faruk. However, it is alleged that from last year Jubo League leader Zakir forcefully took control of this business.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Sattar said. “I have the licence, but I am not given the work. I have two vans lying at home now. If I want to get the work, I will have to fight for it on the streets. I don’t want trouble.”
Zakir claims that he took over the work as Faruk wasn’t ensuring regular garbage collection.
The same picture or forcefully taking over control of the work prevails in many areas of the city.
Towards the end of 1980, it was in Kalabagan that private garbage collection was introduced. Later this spread to the rest of the city. Initially social groups and local people took up this task as a social service. It only became a thriving business since 2000 when BNP men took over the service. The city corporation at the time had no fixed fee for the service.
When AL came to power in 2009, the waste disposal racket was taken over by the ruling party local leaders. The monthly fee was fixed at Tk. 30 by the city corporation, though no one heeded this.
President of the DNCC waste collection service providers, Nahid Akhter, told Prothom Alo that the services providers of each locality determine their own fees. The city corporation had been approached several times to reset its Tk. 30 fees, but it has not responded.
The monthly collection fees ranges from Tk. 80 to Tk. 150 per house, though this goes up to Tk. 200 or Tk. 250 in some cases. In Gulshan, Banani and Dhanmondi, this can be even Tk. 300 to Tk. 500.
Member secretary of the Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan’s urban and good governance committee Iqbal Habib, speaking to Prothom Alo, said in the big and developed cities of the world, the city corporations collect the garbage. He said that the present non-institutional garbage collection in the city has to be regulated.
According to a Prothom Alo report on 18 September 2017, the garbage collection business generated Tk 2.4 billion annually. Then too it was controlled by the ruling party men. The business is now almost double.
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) chairperson Sultana Kamal told Prothom Alo that it is nothing surprising that the ruling party men are involved in garbage collection business. After all, the ruling party leaders are acting as middle men in each and every sector.
* This report appeared in the Bangla edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir