Even amid the pandemic, hundreds of conservancy workers in port city take to the streets to clean up the waste produced in the day. However, they continue to collect the waste without using any safety equipment, putting them at risk of being infected by various diseases.
The cleaners alleged that their appointment authority — Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) — did not provide them with protective gears. As a result, they were compelled to work this way.
On the other hand, the CCC officials concerned claimed that they did give those to workers but they “do not want” to use them.
Waste collection in port city is mostly based on manual labour. The workers collect household waste then carry those to the nearby collection spot, from where the CCC vehicles take those to landfills.
At present, there are 3,700 conservancy workers under CCC. Of those, 1,700 are permanent workers and the rest work on daily wage basis.
According to CCC officials, the city produces around 2,500 tonnes of waste every day.
While visiting different areas yesterday, this correspondent found that almost 90 percent workers were working without any safety equipment such as masks, gloves or shoes.
A few of them were seen wearing masks.
Conservancy worker Hridoy was seen collecting waste at city’s Askar Dighir Par. He was dumping household waste in his rickshaw-van for taking those to a nearby collection spot.
Hridoy said the CCC officials did not give him any safety gear.
“I work on daily wage basis. As I’m not a permanent worker, I cannot really demand masks, gloves or shoes from the authority. I know there are health risks, but I am too poor to afford those,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ajoy Das was seen collecting waste in Chawkbazar area. Echoing Hridoy he said he had been suffering from skin diseases for many days.
“I took treatment at the outdoor of Chattogram Medical College Hospital. The doctors advised me to maintain hygiene but my profession does not allow me to do so,” said Ajoy.
Contacted, Prof Dr Sujat Paul, head of medicine department at CMCH, said conservancy workers were at risk of being infected by various skin and chest diseases if they continue to work without taking any safety measures.
“They may even suffer from diarrhoea, typhoid and jaundice,” he said.
Contacted, Dr Mahfuzur Rahman, convener of Public Health Rights Protection Committee, Chattogram, said CCC should modernise the garbage management system, rather than relying on manual process.
“They should equip the garbage workers properly until they can ensure a better system,” he said.
Contacted, CCC deputy chief conservancy officer Morshedul Alam Chowdhury said they provided all necessary safety equipment including hand gloves, facemasks, gumboots and plastic gowns to the workers.
“But most workers did not want to use those as they said they did not feel comfortable working wearing those,” he added.
Asked about workers’ allegation of not getting any safety equipment, he said it was not true.
However, a conservancy worker at Baghmoniram ward said he did get gloves, gumboots and facemask from CCC once, but he did not want to use those while working. “We cannot work comfortably in those,” he said, adding that CCC should provide them with more user-friendly equipment.
At the same time, preferring anonymity, at least five workers said around 10 percent of them were given the safety items.
Asked, the deputy chief conservancy officer said they give cleaners the items available at market. “So the allegation of those being not user-friendly is untrue,” he said.
He also said they are planning to modernise the waste collection procedure.
Despite repeated attempts, CCC chief executive officer Kazi Mohammad Mozammel Haque could not be contacted for comments.