A Pakistani woman is transforming the streets of Karachi by using rubbish to build shelters and basic furniture for families who are in desperate need.
Nargis Latif began the Gul Bahao (which translates to “flow the flowers”) project 22 years ago, after complications during childbirth nearly cost her her life. She said she made a promise to God to make the world a better place if she survived and as she recovered, she decided to research ways of turning the piles of rubbish on the streets of Karachi into something useful.
The city of Karachi produces 12,000 tonnes of rubbish per day and most is simply set alight to get rid of it. “I used to get very mad when garbage was burned,” Latif explains. The massive amounts of smoke pumped into the atmosphere contribute to the high levels of pollution in the city.
A research centre was established in 2004 to investigate the uses of discarded plastic and, since 2005, more than 150 structures made of the plastic have been distributed across the country. The shelters were used to help families after the 2005 earthquake and to house the families of patients at the Civil Hospital Mithi in the deprived Tharparkar district.
The project also makes items including tables, chairs, and toilets from the plastic wrapped inside a polystyrene insulation sheet, thermophore.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as enthusiastic about Gul Bahao and the $90,000 that has been spent on the project since it began. What was once a 70-person-strong team has dwindled to seven and convincing the public that the material is clean has been a challenge. “People say this is made from garbage, and we don’t want to live or sit on garbage. But this is clean material, especially the plastic. It’s difficult to remove that thinking and perception,” Latif says.
Environmental research is also a low priority for the people of Karachi, which has meant that people are less than willing to provide the desperately needed funds to continue running the project.
Despite these challenges, Ms Latif is determined to see her vision of a clean Karachi, free of pollution and plastic bags come to fruition. – Ariana Norton
Screenshot from DNews’ Youtube video.