Cleaning up the Streets in Bamyan

Rubbish bins are now on nearly every street of Bamyan’s Zargaran Township. Twice a week, the rubbish is taken to a collection point where it is recycled into fertilizer for organic farming. Simple, effective and good for the environment. Photo: UNDP Afghanistan / Rob Few / 2015

Bamyan, July 2015 — Due to an upsurge in urban migration, new townships are appearing all across Afghanistan. But how do the residents in these new towns dispose of their waste? In Bamyan’s Zargaran Township, a solution has been found by the Green Afghanistan Association (GAA), a local NGO supported by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme. It’s cheap and simple: they’ve put rubbish bins on the streets.

Over the last year, more and more people have begun to throw their waste into these bins.

Highlights

  • In Bamyan’s Zargaran Township, a local NGO, with support from UNDP and the Global Environment Facility’s SGP, has put rubbish bins on the streets of this town.
  • The biodegradable rubbish is recycled into fertilizer for organic farming while plastic, metal and glass are taken elsewhere to be buried underground.
  • The project has made a genuine contribution to the town’s cleanliness and supported the adoption of healthy behaviour among residents.
  • Men, women and elders alike point to a change in their lives. “Our streets look cleaner now as most of us use these bins,” says Ghulam Ali, 30, a shopkeeper in the town. “Proper disposal of waste is still a challenge, but we see people are getting used to it.”
  • Before the project ends this August, the municipality of Bamiyan City will take over responsibility for the town’s waste disposal and its compost centre.

“One of the great achievements of this project is that people who have recently moved from rural areas have become familiar with the culture of urban living,” says Rohullah Feroogh, Awareness Advisor for GAA.

There is a set of two bins at each disposal point and residents have been instructed to throw plastic, metal and glass into one, and food leftovers into the other. Altogether, there are 30 sets of bins covering one third of the town and each set is used by nearly 20 households.

 

How is waste removed?

Twice a week, a cleaning crew goes around the town with a truck and takes the rubbish to a collection point outside the town, where it’s first sorted. The biodegradable rubbish is recycled into fertilizer for organic farming while plastic, metal and glass are taken elsewhere to be buried underground.

Zainab Hussaini, 60, standing at her house gate with three of her grandchildren, feels very happy about the rubbish bins on her street and says, “We discard our waste in these bins to keep our place clean. I love cleanliness.”

In the past one could see piles of waste in the town that polluted the air and caused numerous health problems. According to Mrs Hussaini, her neighbours used to throw their waste onto the street. “It was disgusting,” she says.

 

A change in people’s behaviour

Raising awareness is at the core of executing this project, so GAA has reached out to residents through various channels, including Friday sermons and city council meetings, as well as independent GAA events.

“In our council and shura meetings, we’ve told people’s representatives to encourage their fellow residents to use these bins,” says Mr. Yusuf Ali, Head of the town’s council. “Imams have played a key role in raising people’s awareness and increasing usage.”

Men, women and elders alike point to a change in their lives. “Our streets look cleaner now as most of us use these bins,” says Ghulam Ali, 30, a shopkeeper in the town. “Proper disposal of waste is still a challenge, but we see people are getting used to it.”

 

Sustainability

The first batch of compost made from the city waste is almost ready to be distributed for organic farming. This time, the fertilizer will be used on research farms belonging to the department of agriculture. In the future, it will be sold to farmers on the outskirts of Bamyan City.

Before the project ends this August, the municipality of Bamyan City will take over responsibility for the town’s waste disposal and its compost centre. According to Mr. Naitaqi, the municipality has agreed to keep the operation running after the project is over. Most of the resources for running the disposal system will come from the municipality and from selling the organic fertilizer to farmers. 

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