Inadequacies in Waste Management Spur Eco Challenges in Bahrain

Bahrain’s 1.2 million population generates approximately 4,200 tons of municipal waste, 7 tons of healthcare waste and about 380 tons of industrial waste daily, observed and environment expert. Waste segregation, awareness, indiscriminate waste dumping and lack of commitment by the stake holders are the main issues related to waste management faced by the nation, according to the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife, Waste Disposal Unit Head Eng. Rehan Ahmed.

Ahmed was speaking on the occasion of the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Week organized by Bahrain National Gas Co. Rehan mentioned that the country has been facing three decades of fast paced industrialization and urbanization. Combined with high population growth and an influx of migrant workers, it has brought on a variety of environmental challenges especially in its waste management system.

The main issues related to waste management are lack of waste segregation, awareness, indiscriminate waste dumping and lack of commitment by the stake holders. Ahmed stated:

“The inability by waste generators to reduce quantities of garbage is posing serious public health problems…Other challenges associated include mixing of industrial and municipal waste, lack of integrated/multi-disciplinary approach in waste management and lack of recycling facilities”.

Pollution Hazard

Ahmed pointed out that pollution caused due to inappropriate waste management is causing adverse impacts on the environment and population. “This is indirectly affecting the economy, public welfare, aesthetics and tourism,” he said.

The various environmental impacts include pollution of soil, air and water resources, dust and noise generation, foul odor and nuisance due to decomposition and disposal of waste.

Health impacts are mostly occupational in nature causing reduction in immunity, prevalence of diseases, high or more occurrences of common diseases and fevers, respiratory infections, skin rashes, eye and nose irritations, fatigue and drowsiness.

Waste Concern, Kingdom’s Priority

Ahmed highlighted the top priority given to waste recycling and minimisation through legislation in the country. “Apart from providing incentives to local companies and organizations, many NGOs and community organizations have started community recycling programs and are involved in creating awareness among citizens on the benefits of recycling,” he observed.

“Separate colored bins have been installed at various locations of the country to collect reusable paper, plastic and glass. Waste minimization programs have been initiated by many major industries,” he said.

The island’s waste treatment facilities are located in the south of the country. The Askar Municipal Landfill site accommodates the municipal, agricultural and non hazardous industrial waste. The Bahrain Waste Treatment Company (BWTC) incineration facilities treat hazardous healthcare waste while the Hafira industrial landfill site accommodates industrial waste.

Municipal waste in the kingdom is managed by the Municipalities Affairs through the five operative Municipal Councils/ Governorates. They are serviced by two private contractors who are responsible for collecting solid waste from various locations in the country and disposing it of at the Askar Municipal Landfill Site.

Healthcare waste is managed by the Ministry of Health and is treated at BWTC incineration facilities, operative since April 2002. Hazardous waste is collected in yellow bags while black bags are used for non-hazardous waste. The company is operating two 250 kg/day incinerators and emissions from these incinerators are annually monitored by the Public Commission.

Disposal of industrial waste is the responsibility of the Waste Control Section of the Directorate of Environmental Control (DEC), Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife.

Industrial waste is characterized by the DEC primarily into hazardous and semi-hazardous waste as per the US-EPA Toxicity Criteria for Leaching Procedures (TCLP) and based on the Waste Profile Sheet and other related details submitted by the industry/company.

Non-hazardous industrial waste is sent to the Askar landfill site and potentially hazardous and hazardous industrial waste is accommodated at Hafira industrial landfill site. Hazardous and oily waste can only be transported within the country by DEC approved contractors.

Worth mentioning here is that the Hafira Landfill Site project was awarded the coveted International Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice by the Green Organisation, UK in November 2005. The Hafira landfill site will continue to serve as a guiding landmark for the kingdom as well as for the region in maintaining sustainable development and operation of waste disposal facilities.

The waste generator is charged disposal cost of BD20 per cum for semi-hazardous waste and BD40 per cum for hazardous waste. Due to land availability and economics, land filling of existing industrial waste is currently considered as the most feasible waste disposal method in the country in comparison with other technical choices.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a signatory to all major regional and international conventions and protocols on waste management. It has endorsed the United Nations Millennium Declaration affirming the goals and initiatives in September 2000. Appropriate legislations related to the municipal, healthcare and industrial waste have been made, implemented and enforced.

Bahrain has ratified the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal whereby no hazardous waste can be imported or exported in the country’s territory without the approval of the competent authorities.

Due to the existing legislation and effective monitoring, major national industries are having a proper waste storage, collection and transportation system while small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are gradually improving their waste management systems.

Role of the Public Commission

Ahmed said that the Public Commission is constantly striving for efficiently managing and monitoring the industrial waste generated.

“It also motivates industries and SMEs to minimize quantities of waste generated. The Commission believes that waste management is everyone’s responsibility and providing appropriate services for waste collection, storage and management is a primary requirement that is to be met by all industrial, commercial and other waste generators,” he said.

Ahmed pointed out that a significant proportion of waste can be recycled, which can generate income while protecting the environment.

The Public Commission is monitoring the waste management system whereby municipal, healthcare and industrial waste collection, transportation and disposal is being monitored. The industries and waste generators are required to submit an Annual Environmental Compliance Report of Waste and Chemicals to DEC. Periodic visits are also being made to inspect the waste management situation and check compliance with the national legislations.

The Public Commission target is to improve the waste management situation in the country and to meet the growing demand for safe disposal of all types of waste. It aims to simultaneously address the three variables – cost, social acceptability and environmental burden.

The Public Commission is also working on avoiding and controlling the situation of mixing the industrial waste with other/municipal waste; establishing an efficient waste monitoring and control system while enhancing genuine involvement and serious commitment of waste generators by supporting the establishment of waste recycling facilities.

Recycling Can Generate Income

It is estimated that a significant proportion of waste can be recycled and this can generate income while protecting the environment. Thus, there lies a greater need to develop an integrated approach where public, private and commercial sectors work together to develop local solutions to promote sustainable waste management.

“Thus, there lies a greater need to develop an integrated approach where public, private and commercial sectors work together to develop local solutions to promote sustainable waste management,” he said.

Land Reserves to be Preserved

“Land resources are limited in Bahrain and needs to be preserved. Reduction in waste quantities, waste minimization, reduction and recovery of materials and above all the need for establishing integrated and sustainable management of waste are highly essential,” he said.

“Authorities are working on establishing a practical, integrated, sustainable and environmental friendly waste management system to address this national environmental problem,” he added.

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