Waste Perspectives from Pakistan Part I: Rashid Hameed*, a sanitation worker living in a slum



This World Environment Day sees a global call to beat plastic pollution. In this three-part series, Solomon Khurrum (previously Director of Operations for Tearfund partner Pak Mission Society) and I share three perspectives on plastic and waste from Pakistan. In part one, we hear what life is like for a sanitation worker living in a slum.

Rashid Hameed is 51 years old and lives in one of Islamabad’s 34 urban slums. Islamabad – Pakistan’s capital city – had an estimated population of 1.74 million in 2009. Over a third of these residents live in illegal slums with no civic facilities.

The slums are mostly inhabited by religious minorities (often Christians) who have migrated from Punjab and other provinces to Islamabad in search of a better future. Mr Hameed migrated with his family from his village to Islamabad in the 1980s. He has lived in the slum with his wife, daughter and three sons ever since.

Rashid shares his experience of life there:

“Our slum is located on the bank of a stream. This stream is full of solid waste and a large number of illegal sewer connections end in it. Improper handling of solid waste and indiscriminate disposal in open spaces is a common practice in our slum. It gives rise to numerous potential risks to the environment and to human health.

The main risks to health are indirect and related to poor water, land, and air quality. In addition, the solid waste and polluted stream that is around our slum is a breeding place of mosquitoes, flies and rats which cause malaria, dengue and other diseases for our children and old people and we spend a great deal of money on their treatment which is an extra financial burden.

The most obvious environmental damage caused by solid waste in our slum is aesthetic, i.e. waste that litter public areas is ugly and smelly. A more serious risk is the transfer of pollution to groundwater and land as well as the pollution of air from improper burning of waste as we have no other way to dispose of waste.

Socially, we are disconnected from people who are living outside the slum because they discriminate against us because of our unclean and polluted environment. The problems mentioned above are making our lives more difficult and having negative impact on our socio-economic situation.”  

He further tells that his wife is always concerned about the health of their children as they play near the stream and piles of garbage.

Rashid’s situation might seem hopeless, but a neighbouring area has been transformed through a community recycling centre. In the next blog, we will hear about from one worker how joining the centre transformed his life.


*Names have been changed


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