Photo of the Week: Talking Trash

Photo by Acumen Fund Fellow, Bryan Farris

“Walk into any Pakistani’s home and it will be in pristine condition,” said Amjad Aslam, the Chief Marketing Officer at Ansaar Management Company (AMC), “but outside our walls you’ll find trash in the streets.”  A day later I observed as a couple riding on a motor bike threw their trash at a garbage container rather than in it.  They sped off without looking back.

Amjad went on, “Pakistan lacks a sense of accountability for public spaces.”  The picture above is from Gulberg, one of the nicest parts of Lahore.  This is not a problem restricted to the poor; the trash-ic jam I snapped a photo of is evidence that even in the nicest parts of the city, waste disposal is an issue.  As Amjad explained, Pakistanis do not feel responsible for the area beyond their four walls; the prevailing attitude is that “someone else will clean it up.”  I have not been here long enough to make a judgment myself, but there does appear to be a dichotomy between public spaces and private spaces.

AMC, where I’m serving my fellowship, is often touted as a developer of affordable housing for the poor, but in fact that is not the case.  While the company does develop affordable homes, AMC’s real ambition is to develop communal identity and accountability.  Just as you can’t build a home without a hammer, you can’t build communities without homes.  The home itself is just a tool; a tool which enables neighborhoods to reach their full potential.  AMC’s mission is “To provide innovative affordable housing solutions to the lower income segments of the Pakistani population, and to create vibrant and empowered communities.” The last part is key; empowered communities take part in decision making and form lasting social contracts for their mutual benefit.

The founder of Amnesty International, Peter Benenson, coined the phrase, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” AMC’s vibrant communities won’t solve the waste disposal problem in Pakistan, but they will light up the path forward.

Bryan Farris is an Acumen Fund Fellow in the Class of 2011, currently working with the Ansaar Management Company in Lahore, Pakistan. Also check out his personal blog,

The Photo of the Week series features images chosen by Acumen Fund staff and community members — favorite photos they’ve taken in the field or pulled from the archive. Look for it in the middle of every week.

5 responses to “Photo of the Week: Talking Trash

  1. When I was in Lahore I saw people throw their garbage (food and paper) right onto the floor. They left dirty dishes sitting in the sink for days with cockroaches crawling on them. The women would wipe their childs running nose with her scarf and then wipe a plate with it and then wipe her brow with it. Someone in the house of 13 was always sick . They did not even have a broom in the house but waited for the lady who came and swept the floors with branches and then wiped them all with the same damp dirty cloth which she never even rinsed. It was the same each of the four times I was there and each time I myself got very ill. So I don’t think that Pakistani are clean even in their own homes. Nor do they know proper hygiene.

  2. It is a pity thinghs are so bad . It is as bad in India too. The authorities are not unaware of this but do not do anythingh to improve the situation.
    I am 84 years old and lived in Pakistan till 1947 and am as fond of Pakistan as India. I sometimes hope the two countries come together and may be unite sometime in the future. It will be womderful if it happens soon during my lifetime. Insha allaha it will happen.

  3. Sukhdev Singh Sohal

    Pity the people who do it. In Amritsar too the people do it openly. Even those who come from the Euopean or American countries talk of civic sense and next moment throw a banana peel or used wrap on a road or street and utter that you dont have this liberty in those countries – India is great ! Be in Pakistan or India or Lahore or Amritsar or Kurukeshtra we are the same . No difference whether we are foreign returned on not.We have the habit of cleasing ourselves internally at the cost of surroundings. If we admit it, I do hope that we can improve ourselves.

  4. South Asians and Muslim community have serious problem regarding negligence toward living in clean and hygiene environment.
    In Islam cleanliness is half of faith so what left behind all this but Mullah didn’t bother to practices it.On the backside or in side walls of each mosques we can see such scenes of garbage.So I think Islamic teaching seriously lacks practicing the real spirit of cleanliness which is very prominent in western cultures.

  5. “We are like that only” here in India too.

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