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Waste management

Urban population (millions) with and without improved water and sanitation: Asia and the Pacific

By the year 2000, improved water supplies had been provided to a larger proportion of the urban population (95 per cent) than had improved sanitation (65 per cent)

Note: data are available for many more countries in 2000 than in 1990 so the improvement appears exaggerated

Source: compiled from WHO and UNICEF 2000

Much of the solid waste generated in urban centres remains uncollected and is either deposited in surface waters and empty lots, or burned in streets. This problem has worsened over the past 30 years. Collected waste is mainly disposed of in open dumps, many of which are neither properly operated nor maintained, and which pose a serious threat to public health. Only a few Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore, and those in Australia, Japan and New Zealand, have adequate solid waste disposal facilities but even these cities have problems in dealing with increasing volumes of waste (ADB 2001).

In the mid-1990s, Metro Manila generated 6 300 tonnes of solid waste daily but its landfills could accommodate only a little more than half that amount (ADB 1996). The island of Kiribati has severe population density problems caused by internal migration and has little land for waste disposal. As on many atoll islands, solid waste is discharged into coastal waters.

Serious health and environmental problems can be caused by poor waste disposal. In the Pacific Islands, freshwater is scarce, and solid waste disposal methods that contaminate water are frequently a source of intestinal diseases and ear and eye infections. In India, an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1994 was linked to inadequate solid waste disposal (Tysmans 1996).

The disposal and treatment of industrial, toxic and hazardous waste also causes serious problems. Dumping of hazardous waste is common in South and Southeast Asia. Countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have become dumping grounds for significant quantities of hazardous waste from industrialized countries, and are facing growing protests about waste-related pollution.

A large number of stakeholders are involved in national waste management policies and strategies. Waste management services have been privatized in countries such as Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Thailand. This appears to be an effective means of improving these services, while providing additional employment. However, much waste is generated by small producers, who are difficult to service with traditional methods.

Sustainable commuting in Singapore

With a total land area of 650 km2 and a population of 4.1 million, Singapore faced serious challenges of limited space and high population density when designing its transit system. A combination of buses, mass rapid transit (MRT) lines, light rapid transit lines and taxis, Singapore's public transportation system currently supports about 5 million of the total 7 million trips made every day, with 3 million on buses, 1 million on the MRT and another 1 million in taxis.

Singapore has implemented a strict vehicle quota system, under which a certificate must be acquired before registering a vehicle. This allows the government to restrict the increase in vehicle numbers. An electronic road pricing system charges a fee to cars during peak hours, encouraging motorists to use public transportation or less busy roads. Vehicle inspection centres carry out mandatory testing of cars more than three years old and exhaust emissions to ensure they meet the limits set by the Ministry of Environment. The government has also introduced tax incentives to encourage the use of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Source: Swee Say 2001