State of Cities 2015: Solid Waste Management in Dhaka City

With over eight million inhabitants, everyday Dhaka city produces an enormous amount of solid waste. Collecting and recycling these wastes requires a proper solid waste management (SWM) system. But the absence of such an SWM system in Dhaka city is causing major environmental hazards and exposing citizens to severe health risks. In our fourth annual flagship report of its kind, the “State of Cities 2015: Solid Waste Management in Dhaka City,” we explored the roles of various stakeholders and institutions involved in SWM at different stages. Findings from the study indicate the need for a reform of the existing systems of SWM in Dhaka city.

Researchers: S. M.Gubair Bin Arafat; Mohammad Sirajul Islam; Gazi Arafat Uz Zaman Markony; Sumaiya Kabir Talukder; Raihan Ahamed; Nadir Shah

Partners: International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

Timeline: 2014–2015

Status: Completed

Contact: Mohammad Sirajul Islam

Publications: State of Cities 2015: Solid Waste Management in Dhaka City


One of the reasons why Dhaka has been ranked as the second “least liveable city in the world” for three consecutive years is its SWM system, which is both inefficient and inadequate. It has been estimated that in 522 urban centres of Bangladesh, the volume of solid waste generated per day amounts to 14 thousand tonnes. Of such an enormous volume of solid waste, only 56 per cent are collected and dumped. It is now one of the major issues of Dhaka city due to its impacts on the environment and on human health. In fact, the issue has gained such importance that SWM was held as a top priority agenda in the 2015 Mayoral Elections of Dhaka. Dhaka’s division into Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) did raise expectations for better governance and thereby, a better SWM system. But no major initiatives have been taken in this regard. Moreover, there is an inadequacy of recent studies that deal with this problem.


The broad objective of our study was to understand the existing SWM system in Dhaka city—the volume of solid waste generated, the difficulties at various stages of SWM, and the role of various stakeholders involved in SWM.


For this study, we adopted a mixed methodology with both qualitative and quantitative tools. To collect our data, we surveyed 600 randomly selected households from 12 randomly selected wards. In addition, we conducted seven focus group discussions (FGDs) and 42 key informant interviews (KIIs) with relevant stakeholders. We also obtained data from various secondary sources, such as DNCC and DSCC. Furthermore, we conducted round-the-clock information tracking at selected primary waste disposal sites (container stations). Geographic Information System (GIS) data were also collected and analysed to prepare relevant maps.

Findings and Recommendations

In our findings, it emerged that per capita waste generated by households amounts to 0.38kg. However, during summer, the amount of produced solid waste increases, as reported by 62 per cent of the surveyed households. We also found that about 70 per cent of households segregate waste before dumping them. In this case, female household members play the leading role. In our study, more than 80 per cent of the household reported enjoying door-to-door waste collection service, while about 13 per cent of the households disposed of their waste directly in open spaces. The convenient time for the door-to-door waste collection ranges from 10 am to 2 pm. Improved timing and coverage of door-to-door service, according to 37 per cent of the households, would change the SWM system. We also observed that often waste remains unattended at the container site for a significant time, indicating a coordination gap between waste disposal and collection at the container stations. We pointed out that a small investment in transporting organic waste to the composting centre and providing subsidy to promote organic fertiliser can divert a significant portion of the waste for composting and save space at the landfilling site.

For effective SWM, the capacity of the wards to collect and dump waste should be enhanced. Moreover, the timing of waste collection and disposal needs to be coordinated. In this regard, GPS, mobile, etc. can be helpful. To encourage recycling, the informal market can be institutionalised to a possible extent; and to encourage composting, government interventions can play a significant role. And finally, both the government and non-government organisations (NGOs) can join forces to raise citizen awareness regarding SWM.