Thursday, July 27, 2017

Yangon rubbish piles up

Yangon residents are producing more rubbish and there are fewer places to put it, officials warn. According to a two-year survey carried out by the municipality, lifestyle changes are responsible for some of the increase, which has been exacerbated by a rise in population.

Rag pickers rummage through the Hlaing Tharyar township garbage dump. Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar TimesRag pickers rummage through the Hlaing Tharyar township garbage dump. Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar Times

Using data collected between November 2015 and February covering 4,666,721 people living in Yangon Region’s 33 townships, it says the city’s 5.21 million people produce 1981 tonnes of garbage a day. Each person disposes of about 0.41 kilograms (0.9 pounds) daily, ranging from 0.43kg in western Yangon to 0.38kg in the northern part of the city.

“In 2012, the average weight of rubbish per person was 0.34kg, rising to 0.39 in 2014,” said U Aung Myint Maw, assistant chief engineer in Yangon City Development Committee’s Pollution Control and Cleansing Department. He said more than 70 percent of that rubbish was kitchen waste, the rest being plastic, glass, tins and other materials.

The main problem is the lack of space to dispose of the rising mound of garbage.

U Aung Myint Maw, a 15-year veteran of the department, said the five tips the city used were getting full. “YCDC is trying to recycle the waste as an energy source, but we lack the funding, the equipment and the staff,” he said.

Environmental specialist U Win Myo Thu, director of EcoDev Myanmar, said the YCDC survey was an underestimate, adding that in most developed countries the average production of garbage per person was more than 0.5kg. “Waste disposal is Yangon’s biggest problem,” he said.

“Under the former government, YCDC did not have a very good reputation, which makes it harder for them to educate the public,” he said.

“People are eating more ready-made food and using more plastic. Not much attention is being paid to reducing the volume of garbage. The most important thing for the government is to improve the waste management system,” he said.

Voxpop: What do you think should be done to clean up?

Last year, Yangon residents rejected a plan to outsource garbage collection after two private companies had won an initial tender to take out the city’s trash for the next 10 years. The privatisation plan would have entailed higher costs with trash collection charges rising from K20 to K53 a day for downtown residents, and K15 to K45 for those in Yangon’s suburbs.