Taking on the trash

Community EmpowermentPakistan

Imagine if there were no bin men to come for your bins. And no municipal dump either. This has always been the case for a slum settlement in Pakistan, and it wasn't pretty. They decided enough was enough...

Taking out the rubbish is a necessary, but not necessarily fun chore. But for the residents of one Neighbourhood in Pakistan, the ways they currently get rid of their waste could be fatal.

The slum is situated on a riverbank in Islamabad. It lacks electricity, safe water, gas and many other everyday necessities. However, the residents are also denied access to another vital service: waste collection.

As a result, they dump their waste in the river. This contaminates the drinking water and soil, putting children at risk as they play. To make matters worse, during times of heavy rain the rubbish can cause the river to flood into local homes.

‘Children easily capture these messages.'


Children are the answer 
Supported by Tearfund’s local partner, Pak Mission Society (PMS), a community based organisation called Dhanak is starting to tackle the problem. They’re raising awareness in the community about the vital importance of good waste management – starting with some of the youngest people.

‘Children easily capture these messages,' says Rizwan, a local nurse who heads up Dhanak.

Together with PMS, Rizwan and the rest of the team at Dhanak have increased engagement around waste, and now almost all members of the community are taking an active role. ‘I am looking forward to [seeing] a neat area where my children can play without the fear of being sick,' he says.

L-R: Two e-guards on collection patrol, a waste hub.

Baby steps

To make even wider change possible, environmental guards (e-guards) have been employed – local people who go door-to-door collecting waste and then hand sort the rubbish at the nearest waste management site. This has been a great success – inspiring other communities in Pakistan to do the same.
Collecting rubbish is a difficult task here. The slum’s streets are steep and have no proper pavements. ‘It's a very big challenge for our e-guards to collect door-to-door,’ says Rizwan. ‘Because our streets are like a slide.’

Dhanak has big plans for the future. Supported by PMS, they want to create a tuition centre to give local children summer classes about hygiene, health and waste management.

None of these answers are hi-tech or expensive. But, for the residents, these small steps have already made a mountain of difference. 


Thank you, Lord, for the work of Dhanak and PMS in Islamabad and the difference they are making in communities like this. We pray for safety for the villagers and protection from flooding and disease. We ask that, as e-guards continue the sustainable clear up process, there will be no setbacks and that the river will be restored as a source of life for the community.

In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Caleb French