Naureen Aqueel

Citizens: Take ownership!

Posted on: August 7, 2008

An edited version of this article was published in Newsline, August 2008.

“It’s the sense of ownership,” says the EDO Municipal Services, Muhammad Masood Alam, describing the state of littering in Karachi “If I can take care of my home, then why can’t I take care of my lane and sidewalks?”

It is true that the citizens of Karachi need to take ownership for the state of their city with respect to littering. Each wrapper that is not flung out of the open car window, each cloth bag that is used in place of polythene plastic bags, and each dustbin installed in the neighbourhood can help make a difference. It is only the will that is needed.

“Don’t Mess with Karachi” is one private venture by a team of primarily four motivated and concerned citizens who are out to set an end to littering. Salman Raja and Tooba Zarif, founding members of this campaign and of Deal Pvt. Ltd., which is carrying out this anti-littering campaign, speak about this project with great enthusiasm. “We have to rise against this problem as nation,” says Salman. “First, we have to raise awareness that ‘yes this a problem’ and then we can get down to practical things.”

The Don’t Mess with Karachi campaign aims to make Karachi a litter free city, embed the concept of a litter free environment in citizens of Karachi and enforce an anti-littering act by the year 2013. The city government has given Deal Pvt. Ltd. the right to launch an anti-littering campaign in the city and come up with innovative ways on how to educate the public about littering.

Deal Pvt. Ltd aims to educate citizens, primarily students, on the importance of keeping the city clean. They have already started going to schools to build up an ‘Anti-littering force’ who will then participate in activities like student conventions, beach clean-ups, kids fashion shows, tree planting etc to raise awareness and funds for the anti-littering campaign. So far they have obtained permissions from forty schools already. They plan to go to every school in Karachi, even those for children coming from less-privileged backgrounds.

So, why are they focusing mainly on children? Salman and Tooba explain that they found it more effective to educate children and younger citizens about littering, rather than going directly to elder citizens. They think children are the means of reaching each and every home, and each and every citizen of Karachi. “If we go and tell older citizens not to litter, they won’t listen,” explains Salman. “But if their child tells them the same thing, they will love it, and they will listen.”

In addition to having a school programme, the Don’t Mess with Karachi campaign also has a corporate and citizen programme. A few companies have shown interest in this campaign, but nothing much has been done by them, say Tooba and Salman. As per the citizens programme, citizens can become members and sponsor their activities such as sponsoring a bin.

Deal Pvt. Ltd., being official consultants of the Chinese firm, has also taken up the task of spreading awareness about the project of the Chinese company and urging citizens to cooperate with the company. They will officially launch their school programme and bin installation programme as soon as the Chinese company launches its operations.

The project to clean up Karachi requires cooperation from the citizens. Everyone needs to play their part. Teachers, religious scholars and NGOs must educate people about cleanliness and the evils of littering. Citizens must make an effort to reduce, reuse and recycle and not litter the streets. “A sense of civic responsibility needs to be inculcated in the public to make them aware of their ethical and religious responsibilities to maintain cleanliness at individual, household and community levels,” says Syed Ghulam Qadir Shah of World Wide Fund for Nature, Pakistan. “The solution to maintain a clean environment should come from within the community with support from civic agencies.”

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