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Privatisation of garbage disposal on cards,film on mission to help rag pickers

In a non-descript slum in Jahangirpuri,the hair you throw into your bathroom bin transforms into wigs for idols,and the toys you dispose of make their way into second-hand markets.

Written by Neha Sinha | New Delhi |
February 6, 2009 2:45:14 am

In a non-descript slum in Jahangirpuri,the hair you throw into your bathroom bin transforms into wigs for idols,and the toys you dispose of make their way into second-hand markets.

Even as the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is set to privatise the door-to-door collection of garbage in the city,a new documentary takes a look at those whose livelihoods are attached to the 7,000 metric tonnes garbage generated in the Capital daily.

Disposable,a documentary made by NGO Swechha,follows your garbage bag from the neighbourhood dumps,sanitary landfills in Ghazipur,slums around Jahangirpuri,Kotla Mubarakpur and Wazirabad,and uncovers a world of organised garbage-sorting and recycling by the estimated one lakh waste-pickers in Delhi.

These waste-pickers don’t have it easy,but Delhi’s own slumdogs deserve a better deal,the documentary argues.

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“Our research has uncovered an amazing network of sorting and reuse which needs to be formalised,” says Vimlendu Jha of Swechha. “The business of trash is highly organised. Different waste-pickers specialise in different objects like plastic,glass and paper. In fact,they are responsible for these objects being recycled.”

Jha says the hard work of these people goes unnoticed: most waste-pickers live near garbage in conditions often worse than slums.

“In the wake of the MCD privatising garbage collection,there is an urgent need to recognise the existing system and save their livelihoods from getting lost,” Jha says.

In a pilot project,the MCD is privatising garbage collection in Vasant Kunj,Civil Lines and Dwarka. The intention is make the garbage dhalao redundant and have three-wheelers pick up garbage from homes daily.

“But it’s the existing system of recycling that needs a leg up,as there is an environmental cost in burning or burying garbage at landfill sites,” Bharati Chaturvedi from the environmental think tank Chintan,says.

“Many things we throw away find their way into specialised markets like Shani Bazaars,because there is a massive culture of reuse in Delhi,” she adds. Chintan has helped in making the documentary.

“In Cairo,garbage collection was privatised which led to 70,000 people becoming jobless. We have to avoid such a situation,” Chaturvedi says. “We should aim at giving waste-pickers legal recognition and ownership of the garbage. Around 20,000 of Delhi’s waste-pickers are children. If their parents are given stable jobs,their involvement in it is likely to come down.”

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