Press Release in Dhaka

UNB, Dhaka
The garbage of Dhaka city, which is still considered as hazard, has helped the country's two urban planners win a prestigious United Nations award. Abu Hasnat M Maqsood Sinha and Iftekhar Enayetullah, founders of Waste Concern, won the Race Against Poverty Award of the United Nations in recognition of their contributions to recycling waste and providing training to hundreds of waste pickers.  UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will give them the award on October 30 in New York for their tremendous efforts to improve the environment of Dhaka city and the living conditions of hundreds of waste pickers.

The achievement of the two youths was disclosed at a press conference at Jatiya Press Club on Thursday afternoon. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organised the news conference. UNDP's Country Representative Jorgen Lissener introduced the two brilliant youths, who consider waste as asset, not hazard. Maqsood and Iftekhar have motivated and trained hundreds of former waste pickers in five areas of the city to "turn trash into cash" using simple technology. Everyday nearly 11 million people of the city produce around 3,500 tons of solid waste and 80 per cent of which is organic and suitable for composting. Dhaka City Corporation, which is understaffed and cash strapped, can only collect half of the garbage while the rest is left to rot in the heat and humidity in different parts of the capital, one of the world's most densely populated cities after Tokyo.

Maqsood Sinha, an architect, and Iftekhar Enayetullah, a civil engineer, set up the 'Waste Concern' seven years ago.  "In the beginning, it was difficult for us to motivate the people to work with waste and none was ready to give us a piece of land to set up our plant," Sinha said. He said last of all Lions Club gave them a plot of land near the city for setting up the plant. In 1995, 'Waste Concern' caught the attention of UNDP and it provided assistance to help build the first organic waste-processing centre in Dhaka. With the support of UNDP and the government, Waste Concern replicated similar system in four other poor communities around the capital by 1998. Using small bicycle-driven collection carts, the ex-waste pickers, who now work full-time for the Waste Concern, collect organic garbage like kitchen scarps from local householders. Then using simple technology at their community-processing centre, they transform the waste into compost over a period of 55 days. There was no organic alternative to chemical fertilizers in the local market until Waste Concern developed this product. The organic compost produced by Waste Concern is being used in many rural areas of the country. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) has tested the impact of the organic compost on potato crops and found it helpful in boosting output.

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