Sustainable Waste Management System (Bangladesh)

by Green Channel

We are living in an era where certain people have to buy bottled air because it is so difficult to breathe in smog-covered areas. Global Warming is no longer a hypothesis or a myth; it is a serious issue, in which people either shy away from the topic or talk about it without contributing.

Discussions can only take us so far, but it is the hard work and the vision of the extreme minority that will help us move towards a safer world. There are thousands of new green technologies being developed or tested as we speak, but the major problem these pioneers tackle with is - practicality vs. theory (or usefulness, I cant pick).

One such idea, which caught Green Channel’s eye, was this new trend in green technology, which a team of University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering students came up with. They created a roof tile coating that when applied to an average-sized residential roof breaks down the same amount of smog-causing nitrogen oxides per year as a car driven 11,000 miles.

By their estimations 21 tons of nitrogen oxides would be eliminated daily if tiles on one million roofs were coated with their titanium dioxide mixture. They also calculated it would cost only about $5 for sufficient titanium dioxide to coat an average-sized residential roof.

The students coated two identical off-the-shelf clay tiles with different amounts of titanium dioxide, a common compound found in everything from paint to food to cosmetics. The tiles were then placed inside a miniature atmospheric chamber that the students built out of wood, Teflon and PVC piping

The chamber was connected to a source of nitrogen oxides and a device that reads concentrations of nitrogen oxides. They used ultraviolet light to simulate sunlight, which activates the titanium dioxide and allows it to break down the nitrogen oxides.

They found that this titanium dioxide coated tiles removed between 88 percent and 97 percent of the nitrogen oxides that were present. They also found there wasn’t much of a difference in nitrogen oxide removal when different amounts of the coating were applied, despite one having about 12 times as much titanium dioxide coating. There wasn’t much of a difference because surface area, not the amount of coating, is the important factor

There’s also a possibility of producing tiles to remove carbon dioxide, but this would decrease the practicality of the tiles by making the roofs harder to install. But with time, these researchers are hopeful that they will be able to fix this issue. They are also considering looking at applying the coating to concrete, walls or dividers along freeways to see if the same result follows.

In a country like Bangladesh, where there are high-rise buildings or apartments in all directions with unbearable traffic on the ground level, this is something that Bangladesh should invest in! It is cost-effective, efficient, easy to install and most importantly it will make the air in the cities breathable, because recent studies show that the air in Dhaka City contains large amounts of nitrogen oxides as well as sulfur dioxide which are harmful for our lungs.

Pearl S. Buck once said, “The test of a civilization is in the way that it cares for its helpless members.” Can we truly say that we live in a civilized nation where there is chaos everywhere and no one can step outside in peace? What about all the helpless people we see everyday in the streets of Dhaka city? Does anyone care for them? I, personally think that question answers itself.

Recently, The Green Channel Foundation went on a journey to Rampura, Hajipara to teach a batch of underprivileged students on how to maintain proper hygiene, educate them on how certain diseases affect us and how we can fight them off.

As we carried our props to the school, we had a certain plan but we were all nervous. As we entered through that steel gate, we could see the nervousness etched on each of the children’s faces as well. We did not know exactly how to begin, so our President, Navin Apu, started with some warm up conversations and we followed her lead. While we were introducing ourselves, she saw a karate poster behind us and took the opportunity to let the children’s guard down with a fun karate lesson. Our members, Saeema and Sadia were trained in karate and they decided to put on a small show for the kids and show them a few basic karate moves.

Gradually we could see how interested the children were. They followed Sadia and Saeema’s lead very easily and we even called a few of them to see if they could recreate the moves. This exercise warmed them up and made them open up to us.

Afterwards, Hanin and I showed them the ‘7 steps on how to rinse your hands properly’, which was followed by a short skit that focused on three major types of diseases (Typhoid, Jaundice and Diarrhea) that are caused if hygiene is not maintained properly. We explained how these diseases affect us and how to fend them off.

The day progressed as we showed them cartoons and held an art competition, which the children took very seriously. It was fairly obvious that they loved to draw but the funny thing was that almost all of them drew the clichéd village scenery with the lake nearby and the sun shining in the background, which we all drew in our art classes growing up. That moment taught us that even though we were from different walks of life, we were not that different.

The activity that truly opened my eyes was when I had to interview a few of those children. Hearing their stories and how they lived their lives instantly made my own problems feel almost nonexistent. I felt very fulfilled when I heard each of them say that they had learnt a lot because of us. Abdullah, who was a victim of Jaundice told me that when he was suffering from the disease his parents could not even identify how the disease happened and now he knows exactly why it happened and thanked us for teaching him how to avoid certain diseases like this and he vowed to pass on this knowledge onto his other friends who are likely to make such mistakes.

During the end of the day, our Head of Projects, Zahra Alam showed the students a basic filtration system, which Green Channel started working on. The basis of the project is to find an economically viable option of acquiring water and after showing this to them, they all wanted to learn how to make it. When I interviewed Afsana, a student of that institute, as to why she thought this idea of a filtration system would be ideal for a country like Bangladesh, she responded by saying, “having pure, clean water to drink is not a privilege majority of the people in this country have, especially during the monsoon season when there are countless flooding incidents in the village. How are the people there supposed to survive, when they do not have clean water to drink? This rainwater harvesting system would create an efficient way of collecting pure, clean water, which would aid those in need and I strongly believe that this idea should be implemented all over the country.”

Talking with these children, playing with them and teaching them about personal hygiene over the hours made each of us here at Green Channel see the world through their eyes and it is not the kind of world any of us would like to live in. It is time that we take some responsibility and start implementing those changes we would like to see in this world. Just as Rome was not built in a day, complaining and suggesting ideas cannot build an ideal world. We have to begin somewhere. We have to believe first and then start working towards our goals, together. The road ahead may be long, but it is more than worth it..

Teaching children karate moves
Teaching children karate moves

Under Green Channel’s awareness based program, this quarter the team reached out to a new school (for underprivileged children) called Change the Lives. In this school we led workshops based on environmental education, the goals of which were to introduce the following conceopts among children:

  • No-littering
  • Recycling
  • No smoking
  • Personal Hygiene

The team started out with a small introduction about Green Channel followed by interactive games. Some of the children participated by singing songs, staging a performance or showing any other talents they had.

Next, the team led a workshops on personal hygiene, illustrating the importance of using tooth-brushes and hand-washing on a regular basis. Through short entertaining skits the team then showed the children why one must not litter and how important it is to create a litter-free environment and to avoid both active and passive smoking.  Cartoon videos were used to teach the children about causes of diseases, followed by an act about the types of diseases such as typhoid, jaundice and diarrhea. The 8 steps of hand washing were then demonstrated in an interactive way after which the children were asked to demonstrate if they could remember all 8 steps.

Next, the team showed the children a water filter that it had created with the help of a plastic bottle, pebbles, fine sand, cloth and charcoal, to produce pure water. Some of these children usually drink dirty water and thus thought this was a very simple and useful technique to produce fresh water for them and their families. .

The workshop was concluded with a short art competition followed by prizes for all the children. Special prizes were also given to the children who had the best two artworks. The children also received a pair of toothbrush and a toothpaste.

The purpose of this project is to continue the education programs among children. In the next few quarters we plan to also lead a few workshops in privileged schools, hoping to ultimately create a platform where we can bring both privileged and under-privileged children for environmental education.

Two Projects for Summer and Fall 2015:

Project #1: School-Grounds (Starting June) 

Phase I Experimental Phase:

Two schools have been selected to start off the School Project in June 2015. Based on the success of this phase, we will conduct Phase II (replication phase) with more schools.

Project proposals will be sent at the beginning of June to 2 local schools in Dhaka for Phase I.

Objective: Enhancing environmental education for children of age 11-12 through a holistic environmental education curriculum.


  1. To introduce all relevant educational concepts in the education system
  2. To create a stimulating environment for learning and growth opportunities  
  3. To encourage independence of thought, diversity of perceptions and intellectual engagement
  4. To facilitate environmentally conscious decision-making processes among the children of in their everyday life

Environmental Concepts to be introduced:

  • No-littering
  • Recycling
  • Composting
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Other Innovative Solutions


  1. Hand out interactive readings
  2. Documentaries
  3. Workshops
  4. Games
  5. Skits and Talent Shows
  6. Group discussions with guided questions
  7. Design & Build (design a project for your community/ innovative solutions)

Project #2: Rainwater Harvesting Project (Starting late July)

Phase I (Experimental Phase):

We are planning to start out with Uttara Society.

Phase II (Mass Replication):

We will expand our project and help in reducing water scarcity amongst low income-groups, depending on our success during the first stage.

Objective: To provide solution for water scarcity and reduce groundwater depletion.


  1. Reduce water scarcity by building rainwater harvesting systems.
  2. Find innovative solutions to improve the drainage systems of Bangladesh (long term solution).

We are currently at Research Phase for this project.

Research Details

Presently, about 162.2 million people live on 56,977 sq. miles (1,47,570 sq. km) of land which makes Bangladesh one of the most densely populated country in the world. From the last census report of 2001, it is evident that between 1961 to 2001, the population increased by 123.1 million (12.31 crore). In 40 years, the population increased by 77 million (7.70 crore). The population was 75 million in 1971 and in less than 40 years it has crossed 152 million. The present figure of population is 162.2 million which will increase to 200 million by 2020 (The Daily Star, July 11, 2010). Moreover, speakers at a dialogue on January 12, 2011 at Dhaka University said Bangladesh's population would be 222 million by 2051 and 250 million by 2081.

Therefore, among other concerns, fresh water supply will be a crucial issue for this country as its population is ever on the increase and when the state will fail to provide it, this can lead to intense unrest and social instability. The gap between supply and demand of water is ever-increasing. In this regard, Chairman of National Disaster Management Advisory Council Dr. MA Quassem said, “Water availability in Bangladesh is around 90 billion cubic metres (BCM) during the dry season against the demand of about 147 BCM, a shortage of nearly 40 percent, resulting in drought- like situation in large parts of the country” (The Daily Star, August 22, 2010).

Bangladesh is going to face severe water crisis within the next couple of decades due to random contamination of surface and ground-water, absence of comprehensive water sharing with neighbouring countries and mismanagement in preserving rainwater. Although the whole world is seriously thinking of conserving their water resources for ensuring water security, Bangladesh is destroying its surface and ground water by throwing waste into water bodies and over extracting ground water.

Today, rivers around the country are being filled up or being encroached upon in such a manner that is threatening the very existence of human habitation. According to a survey conducted by the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), there are 310 rivers in Bangladesh. Of these, 57 are border-rivers, the condition of 175 is miserable and 65 are almost dead. Eighty percent of the rivers lack proper depth. The latest study of BIWTA reveals that 117 rivers are either dead or have lost navigability. Such rivers include Brahmaputra, Padma, Mahananda, Meghna, Titas, Dhaleswari, Bhairab, Sitalakkhya, Turag, etc.

As rivers got polluted we became more and more dependent on ground-water as a source of drinking water. It is reported that presently 86% of WASA's drinking water comes from ground-water. Besides, excessive use of ground-water during the Boro season may have an adverse effect on the country's drinking water, warned International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on January 23, 2010. The excessive use due to widespread urbanisation, the recharge of the ground-water is not occurring as before. As a result, the ground-water level is falling between 1-3 metres every year. For example, during the last 12 years the ground-water level has fallen to almost 34 metres. According to a study conducted by the Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC), in 1996 the ground-water level was 26.6 metres in different parts of Dhaka city which fell to above 60 metres in January 2008. If this fall of ground water continues, what will happen in 2050 when even deep tubewells will be unable to strike water. For example, in 2001, deep tubewells could strike at a depth of 200 to 300 feet but now they have to go about 1,000 feet to get uninterrupted supply.

Reuse of water can reduce the total water demand. It can be applied both in the domestic and industrial sectors. Rain-water harvesting can also reduce water scarcity. There must be mandatory provisions of rainwater harvesting for every new structure coming up which will be particularly helpful for purposes like car washing, gardening, etc., at least for a certain period of the year and also serve as a reliable source of drinking water in the coastal areas of the country. New innovative technologies are needed to accelerate the utilisation of rain-water.

Bangladesh is a tropical country and receives heavy rainfall during the rainy season. In the coastal districts, particularly in the offshore islands of Bangladesh, rainwater harvesting for drinking purposes is a common practice in a limited scale for long time (Chowdhury et al, 1987). In some areas of the coastal region with high salinity problem, about 36 percent households have been found to practice rainwater harvesting in the rainy season for drinking purpose (Hussain and Ziauddin, 1989). In the present context, rainwater harvesting is being seriously considered as an alternative option for water supply in Bangladesh in the arsenic affected areas.

Rainwater harvesting systems

Rainwater harvesting, low-cost systems that collect and store rainwater for year-round use, offers a cost-effective and practical solution to ease Dhaka’s water crisis. It is estimated that rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems could supply more than 15% of Dhaka’s requirements. Since 1997, one thousand RWS have been installed in Bangladesh, mostly in rural areas. The systems’ capacities vary from 500L to 3,200L, at costs in the range of US$50-150. If RWH is undertaken as a serious investment, it could help conserve groundwater and recharge the water table. About 150bn liters of rainwater could be harvested during the monsoon season alone. Water can be stored for four to five months without bacterial contamination – an important fact given that 110,000 children in Bangladesh die of waterborne illnesses every year.


  • The quality of rainwater is comparatively good.
  • The system is independent and therefore suitable for scattered settlements.
  • Local materials and craftsmanship can be used in construction of rainwater system.
  • No energy costs are incurred in running the system.
  • Ease in maintenance by the owner/user
  • The system can be located very close to the consumption points.


  • The initial cost may prevent a family from installing a rainwater harvesting system.
  • The water availability is limited by the rainfall intensity and available roof area.
  • Mineral-free rainwater has a flat taste, which may not be liked by many.
  • Mineral-free water may cause nutrition deficiencies in people who are on mineral deficient diets.
  • The poorer segment of the population may not have a roof suitable for rainwater harvesting.

With the beginning of 2015, we have restructured a number of things at Green Channel. First of all we have decided to recruit new members for each of the teams (Projects, PR, Finance and IT) and second we have decided to structure each department and create a more sustainable way of training new members.

Under the Projects Department the Waste Management Project has been divided into 6 Action Projects (see document attached):

  1. Project Trash Patrol (the setting up of trashcans, our ongoing project till 2016)
  2. A new project that will work towards creating a sustainable way of collecting Residential Waste (in the process of being designed)
  3. A new project that will work towards creating a sustainable way of collecting Commercial Waste (will be designed after 2016)
  4. A new project that will work towards promoting composting practices in communities (will be designed after 2016)
  5. A new project that will work towards promoting recycling practices in communities (will be designed after 2016)
  6. A new project that will work towards raising awareness among children from an early age (in the process of being designed)

In 2015 we will be working on Action Projects 1, 2 and 6.

Recently we have been in touch with a private organization called Waste Concern in Bangladesh, who have done significant amount of work in this field for the past 20 years. Their knowledge and expertise have proved to be extremely valuable to us and thus we hope to work in partnership with them in the following years.

For Project 1, in the next 6 months we hope to complete Phase 5-10 (out of the 16 phases). For Project 2, we hope to design a project in partnership with Waste Concern using their models and patented composting processes in communities and schools. For Project 3 we will be launching a 3 day long program in two schools in Dhaka (sometime within the next month) which if successful will be be replicated in all the other schools of Dhaka. This program will consist of a few environment related topics, a small quiz competition, followed by a field trip.

The Rainwater Harvesting Project has been postponed to June, as it is closer to the Monsoon season. A project proposal has been made for the project. We will be approaching Uttara Society (a part of Dhaka) in March. They have been having water problem hence are very interested in participating in our experimental phase.


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Organization Information

Green Channel

Location: Dhaka, N/A - Bangladesh
Website: https:/​/​​greenchannel2010
Green Channel
Project Leader:
Navin Rahman
Dhaka, Dhaka District Bangladesh

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