Fellow Since 1996
Gul Bahio Trust
This profile was prepared when Nargis Latif was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Nargis Latif is convinced that the accumulation of solid waste and garbage in the streets and public areas of Karachi poses serious threats to public health and the quality of urban life. She is also persuaded that the relevant public authorities lack the resources and know-how required for an effective solution to the problem.Motivated by those twin convictions, she is engaged in tireless efforts to develop alternative, economically viable methods of waste disposal and to encourage private individuals and businesses to adopt environmentally "friendly" waste generating and waste disposal practices.Much of Nargis' work is focused on the discovery and refinement of simple and efficient procedures for converting trash and garbage into products of sufficient economic value to prevent its accumulation in public spaces and to provide significant sources of income to stimulate the engagement of private individuals in the waste removal process. In the Karachi setting, she has found that setting up stalls for the purchase of recyclable dry trash (i.e., glass, paper, plastic, and metal) in market areas is a particularly effective technique, especially when coupled with efforts to reach out to large numbers of people through community groups, religious organizations, and street cleaners' associations. She is also developing similarly promising approaches for the conversion of wet garbage (i.e., kitchen and food market refuse) into economically viable products.The other major strand of Nargis' work is a closely related public awareness and environmental education campaign. In addition to promoting broad participation in recycling initiatives, she is experimenting with various approaches for instilling a sense of responsibility for environmental protection in school-age children. As part of her environmental awareness campaign, she is also focusing public attention on the plight of street sweepers, who generally belong to lower castes and have traditionally taken up no other occupations. In that connection, she points out that many of the children of today's street sweepers will find other economic pursuits, and that more of the burden of trash and waste disposal must therefore be assumed by the general public.