Litter-ally illegal!

The two Mayors of Dhaka City Corporation urged the citizens to work hand in hand to keep the city clean. But call it laziness or ignorance, no one bothered to step forward. And when it rains in Dhaka and the roads get waterlogged, no one wants to be left out from the blame game. It all goes down to your one reckless littering on the street.

We as humans, have a tendency of running away from responsibilities. We complain about things but do not wish to change it ourselves. We strive for our rights, but in return, do not wish to perform our duties as citizens.

Article 21 of the Bangladesh Constitution confers the duty upon every citizen to maintain discipline and to protect public property. Hence, throwing your trash here and there may be considered as a violation of the Constitution!

Every year on the occasion of Eid Ul Azha, thousands of cattles are slaughtered in Dhaka alone. Where Islam teaches us ‘Cleanliness is part of faith’, we do not maintain it even on this religious occasion.

Cows and goats are slaughtered openly in the street. As a result, animal blood, innards and carcasses scatter around almost everywhere in Dhaka for days.

The waste ultimately starts to rot and creates a threat to public health. Many people tend to dump animal debris in the open drain while others pile them up in the public dustbins. Hence, these places become a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria.

Apart from Eid festivities, throwing garbage in the street is almost next to the character of Dhaka city dwellers. Ironically, they are the ones who are sensitive about the cleanliness of their homes but do not possess any sense of responsibility when it comes to littering on the road. Therefore it is not surprising to find mounds of garbage in the alleys of Shonirakhra or Khilgaon, for example.

The term ‘Garbage’ has been defined in the Local Government (City Corporation) (Amended) Act, 2009. Garbage includes dead animals, trash, excrement, leftovers or any toxic material. Section 1 (4) of the Act states that the City Corporation is responsible for the timely removal of the waste.

According to s.92 of the Act, all the acts mentioned in the fifth schedule would be regarded as punishable offence. S. 13 of the fifth schedule finds littering as an offence. It states that ‘it is an offence if a person throws or keeps rubbish on the street or any place other than that prescribed by the City Corporation’.

s. 93 states that where there is no express provision as to punishments of any of the offences, then he/she may be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand taka. If the offence is repeated, then the fine shall continue with 500 taka everyday till it ends.

There are five established laws on Environment in Bangladesh. These Acts focus mainly on ecological balance, use of national resources, sustainable development and pollution control etc.
Bangladesh Environment Protection Act, 1995 describes the term pollution on a broad aspect. Littering or dumping rubbish in the street may be less significant compared to the definition of pollution in the 1995 Act.

But the consequences of poor waste management in the cities may be considered equally devastating. The open dustbins around the city spreads germs directly in the air creating a possibility of deadly diseases.

It is impossible to instill a sense of responsibility among those who are habitually untidy. Although the 2009 Local Govt. Act has ambitious provisions on punishment for littering, it is hardly in force. A strict liability is all what it takes the fix the problem.

Only a strict liability rule can bring stability, if not total change. Imposing fine of large amounts is the only solution. One shall definitely be at loss if he has to pay 500tk for throwing a chips packet worth just 20tk!

The same people who litter are the ones who complain about dirt and filth on the roads. Call it laziness or habit, littering in Dhaka has gone beyond control. Campaigns cannot do what a strict law can do. If not create a separate Act, the Mayors could implement the existing rules more stritctly so that it is prevented.