Peshawar:While they are known to attract graffiti artists who wouldn’t let a little stink come between themselves and artistic expression, a garbage dumpster isn’t a likely canvass for art.

Nor is it known to serve as a selfie spot for eager youth to preserve and post on Facebook. But with a little cultural twist, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has turned them into exactly that.

When it introduced new solid waste containers and garbage collection dumpers under its Clean and Green Peshawar project this spring, the KP government turned it into a cultural statement by inviting Peshawar’s young artists to daub dumpsters with colourful traditional motifs resembling flamboyant truck art or a block printed ajrak.

“People hated to have solid waste containers or dumpsters in their neighbourhoods due to the stench it produced, so we decided to turn them into art pieces,” said Nasir Ghafoor, General Manager of Water and Sanitation Services Peshawar, a firm tasked with tidying up Peshawar.”

What began as an idea six months ago – with Ghafoor and his team eagerly busying themselves to transform lowly dumpsters into art canvasses under the Specialized Solid Waste Collection Fleet initiative – has quite literally flowered with introduction of 151 ornate waste bins placed at main points in Peshawar.

What the Grand Trunk Road (GT) Peshawar, the Ring Road and Hayatabad in Peshawar lacked by way of colour this spring has been compensated by vivid waste bins daubed with themes borrowed from truck art, Pashtun tradition, images of wildlife, public service messages and, of course, flowers and trees.

But dumpsters as art canvasses are supposed to serve a purpose that goes beyond just uplifting the look of the city. According to WSSP, they are meant to create awareness about the use of waste bins to dispose trash that otherwise ends up in the streets. For a city of 4m people, Peshawar produces tons of trash daily that waste management experts see as potential “black gold” but essentially remains that – waste – for want of recycling.

Spread over 1,257 square kilometres, Peshawar is the the ninth largest city of Pakistan where 810 tons of solid waste is produced daily across its 45 union councils, according to figures provided by Water and Sanitation Services Peshawar (WSSP).

“The daily collection of waste in the city amounts to about 70 to 75 percent of 810 tons,” Ghafoor told News Lens Pakistan. “The rest of the waste remains in the city.”

That means while nearly 607 tons – 75 percent of 810 tons – of the total waste is collected for treatment and recycling, almost 200 tons remain in the city, accumulating on a daily basis.

“People hated garbage bin but now the young and the old are taking selfies with these,” said Ghafoor. “People are unaware of the use of these garbage containers. We also plan to run an awareness campaign let people know about the benefits of dumping waste in bins.”

The KP government has allocated Rs. 200 million to the project that in its first phase has rolled out 16 dumper trucks, 151 containers, 50 mini dumpers, four containers and one water-bowser decorated by two students of Khyber Medical College – Umar Khan and Daniyal Khan. The students received financial support from WSSP to complete the art project.

“Under the first phase of the project we have placed 151 waste containers in different parts,” said WSSP spokesperson Taimur Khan. “In the second phase, the city would get 50 mini garbage dumpers, three armed garbage roller and a water bowser.”

At the inauguration ceremony of the induction of new fleet of solid waste collection containers, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said that cleanliness was an integral part of faith. He said spending on maintenance of sanitation was like investing in society’s health as it checked disease and pollution.

Naveed Ali, a resident of Peshawar, appreciated the KP government’s Clean and Green Peshawar initiative. He told News Lens Pakistan that the decorated garbage bins would make people use them.

Earlier garbage containers would lie full of waste for days, he said, without proper collection arrangements by the authorities and one couldn’t go near them due to the unpleasant smell.

“Now the people not only use them to bin the waste but they also bring colour to the city,” said Ali.

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