Waste in the City_Agglomerating Local Economy of Matuail Landfill

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Designer(s) : Zareen Tasneem Sharif

University : Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET)

Tutor(s) : Dr Nasreen Hossain, Patrick D’ Rozario and Dr Apurba k Poddar

People’s outlook toward waste has always been negative. In this era of the ever-growing use of plastic, one simply cannot overlook where our waste is headed to. Dhaka has been dumping its waste into Matuail for more than 25 years. And for all these years the city has denied its existence, overlooking the fact that in these years, Matuail has turned into a mountain inside a city. The city has also forgotten the stories of Matuail and its people.

In the year 1992, Matuail was a small suburban community of 2 lacs people. It was surrounded by over 1200 hectares of agricultural lowland and an agriculture-based economy and livelihood. “Matuail Sanitary Landfill Project” established in 1995, under Environmental Improvement Program (EIPD), resulted in the biggest environmental and socio-economic disaster for Matuail. The waste of the landfill could not be contained. It started contaminating the agricultural lands, the water, and the air. Ultimately residents were forced to change their professions. Those who were affluent migrated to other places. Those who could not remain entwined with waste. Over the years Matuail became the epicenter of waste-based recycling industries with an isolated community working in the landfill.

After the establishment, people here shifted towards waste-based livelihood and informal recycling setup started to grow. At Present, there are around 30-40 clusters of different recycling mills adjacent to the landfill. The people here have developed various skill-set in waste recycling. With simple local tools, they sort tonnes of waste per day and sell them at the curbside retail shops along the road to the landfill.

Here, the concept is to look at the other side of the story. Where at one side we can see the horrific side of the landfill polluting the environment and the lives of the people. And on the other side, we will find a unique local recycling system generating an economy for the people. Hence the concept emerges from the idea – Remediation of the landfill incorporating this local recycling skill-set to create a Symbiosis.

This project focuses on landfill mining aimed at recovering volumes, in order to make them available for a new use and achieve some very important results-

  • Removing the entire amount of waste and the subsequent inerting of dangerous fractions; and
  • The recovery of the materials present in the landfill: the clusters of waste, that would otherwise be left inside old landfills representing a continuous threat to the environment, are instead valued with consequent obtaining of economic benefits.
  • Reclaiming Treated Land

The Waste Segregation Plant is designed as a Hybrid of modern technology and machinery merged with the local informal recycling and up-cycling skill set. An automated machine core that separates different kinds of material from the waste stream without contaminating the outer layers. This machine core supplies materials to designated floor spaces for each material where it gets recycled/up-cycled and space for making crafts. The monumental form merges into the urban fabric and integrates spaces for public interaction.

By treating the waste in the landfill, gradually more and more land will be available for a new use. Here the concept is to re-establish what was once lost due to the landfill – the agricultural tradition of the people of Matuail. An urban agriculture hub is proposed integrating public trails and marketplaces. Due to the toxicity present in the soil, the traditional ‘macha’ of Bengali household has been merged with modern soil-less aeroponic farming technology.

In conclusion, this project focuses on changing the perspective of waste. Transforming an active landfill into an energy-efficient industrial ecology accompanied by contextual urban spaces reflecting the culture and lives of the people of Dhaka City and bringing back lost agricultural traditions of Matuail.