Clean Peshawar Easier said than done

September 8, 2019

Areas that do not come under the Works and Sanitation Services Peshawar are faced with a far more challenging situation

Clean Peshawar Easier said than done

While the waste disposal problem in Peshawar may not appear as alarming as it is in Karachi, the city has its fair share of challenges with choked drains, dirty streets and overflowing trash bins. In many parts of the city, roads are flooded after rains and the sanitation staff is rushed to clean choked drains and clear roads for traffic, particularly in areas such as Bhanamari Chowk, FC Chowk, vicinity of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and parts of University Road.

The situation is worse in the parts of the district that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Works and Sanitation Services Peshawar (WSSP). Elected local nazims and councillors struggle to clean their streets and roads, clear litter from trash containers and open choked sewerage lines. The canal in Sho’ba Bazaar that winds through Yakatoot and Wazir Bagh all the way to Hazarkhwani, and another canal in Board Bazaar used to be filled with plastic bags and garbage for months. Now, however, these canals are being cleaned after every few weeks.

Lack of awareness is said to be one of the major reasons that garbage is seen lying around trash containers. Most people do not bother to take it to the right place. The easiest way for them to dispose of waste is to put it in a plastic bag and throw it in the canal or drain, choking it in no time.

"After every heavy downpour, water from the nearby drain enters our mosque," says Abdul Wahab, a resident of suburban Peshawar. "Several departments have been approached to clear the drain so that it does not choke when it rains. We also approached the local elected people and the concerned town authorities but the matter remained unresolved for long. In the end locals cleared it on their own," he tells The News on Sunday. Wahab says that areas that are not covered by the WSSP face more problems in waste management and cleaning of canals and drains.

The WSSP covers only 43 out of 93 union councils of Peshawar. Waste management in the rest of the 50 union councils is being done by local nazims and councillors.

Recently Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan chaired a meeting on the drainage system in the provincial capital. He directed the Peshawar commissioner and other concerned authorities to formulate a comprehensive plan in consultation with the WSSP and the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA). Khan was informed about the measures being taken for the resolution of problems arising in the aftermath of rains. These included the construction of a drain next to the provincial Assembly at a cost of Rs 71 million, and another 7-kilometre drain from Gulbahar to Pakha Ghulam at a cost of Rs 420 million.

"The performance of elected bodies, including the district, town and union councils is not satisfactory. They are not playing their due role despite having all the powers and legal authority for cleaning streets, disposing of garbage and improving sewerage system in their jurisdiction. The situation, however, has improved over the last few years in urban areas after the establishment of the WSSP," says Nisar Mehmood, a Peshawar based journalist. He adds that new legislation provides penalties for anyone found littering, blocking of roads and street with garbage or throwing plastic bags in drains. "The drains in many areas remain choked resulting in flooding of roads after heavy rains. Either the entire district must be brought under the jurisdiction of the WSSP or be taken up by another department that takes care of sanitation and waste management, especially in areas close to industrial zones," says Mehmood.

The WSSP covers only 43 out of 93 union councils of Peshawar. The waste management in the rest of the 50 union councils falls to local nazims and councillors while in cantonment it is being done by the Cantonment Board. The tenure of the local governments ended on August 28.

The WSSP charges Rs 350 per house per month for three services - sanitation, solid waste management and water supply. "We are covering a population of around 2 million in 43 union councils of urban Peshawar. Now the government has decided to extend our services to another 23 union councils," says Zafar Ali Shah, the chief executive of the WSSP.

"Dumping garbage daily is not the solution and this is why we have signed an MOU with the University of Peshawar to work on how to use waste to produce energy," he says. "We are moving around 1,000 tons of waste daily. During three days of Eid sacrifice, the WSSP staff collected and shifted 12,776 tons of waste from various parts of the provincial capital to its dumping site," says Shah. He says the WSSP covers the waste with lime and also fumigates the surrounding area to control stench and breeding of mosquitoes.

The canals that remain blocked because of garbage thrown into it do not come under the jurisdiction of the WSSP. "We still removed 200 tons of plastic bags and other waste from Hazarkhwani Canal a few days back. Besides, we have shifted the Board Bazaar, from where tons of plastic bags and waste used to be thrown into the canal daily," claims the WSSP chief executive. He adds that two shifts and Sunday service are being introduced at the WSSP and more trash containers are being purchased to be placed on streets. Among other measures, the staff is being trained and connected through a wireless system. Shah adds that a Whatsapp number and a mobile app have also been introduced to identify places with heaps of garbage so that the WSSP staff may be sent there to collect it.

A resident of Hayatabad was recently fined Rs 1,000 after he threw a juice can from his car in Board Bazaar. The man was identified through CCTV cameras and his car registration number was checked through the Excise and Taxation Department after which the fine was sent to his home address. "We have imposed over Rs 3 million fines in the last few months for littering on streets. A committee has been established to ensure that those littering pay the fine and do not repeat the behaviour," says Shah.

Water and Sanitation Services Peshawar along with Cantonment Board, Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) and administrations of all four towns recently agreed to formulate an integrated sanitation plan to keep the provincial capital clean - not an easy task, though.  The WSSP authorities have asked the PDA, Cantonment Board and town administrations to decide on what kind of services the WSSP can extend to facilitate them, whether it should pick waste from their areas or they should transport it to the WSSP stations.

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According to the WSSP, 328 of their vehicles daily collect trash from 43 union councils in four zones, from 315 containers and dump it at two dumping sites. "A second shift as well as manual and motorised beat systems have been introduced while a feasibility study is in process for proposed service extension to more union councils," says Hassan Ali, media manager of the WSSP. "The WSSP has established a citizen liaison cell and GIS-based door-to-door customer survey is in progress. Besides, wireless communication system for better coordination of the staff, installation of closed circuit television cameras on pilot basis in Board Bazaar,  GIS-based attendance system, staff screening and vaccination and GIS-based asset mapping have been done recently to improve the performance of the department and ensure a clean Peshawar."

Apart from waste management, the WSSP tests quality of drinking water and has replaced 384 kilometres of rusty pipes so far. "Though the canal falls under the Irrigation Department, the WSSP clears it periodically as a goodwill gesture. Now the government has formed a task force to clear canals, and the operations are in process in collaboration with the Peshawar Development Authority, Irrigation Department, police, town municipal administration and district administration," says Ali.


The writer can be reached at and @JavedAzizKhan on Twitter

Clean Peshawar Easier said than done