In the News
March 31, 2023
March 31, 2023
Delhi relies on a largely informal sector of over 1.5 lakh waste workers to collect, segregate and recycle 20-25% of its waste. As the capital tries to transition to Waste-To-Energy plants, it may be leaving its ragpickers unacknowledged and unrewarded
It is quarter to 1 pm in January, the winter sun is shining bright, providing respite from Delhi’s chilly temperatures. Amaruddin is disappointed. Attired in ragged trousers and an old, half-sleeve pink T-shirt that may have seen better days, Amaruddin is walking empty-handed towards his home in the narrow by-lanes of Ghazipur.
“I went to the dumpsite but didn’t get any valuable waste to bring home,” he says, justifying his early return.
Amaruddin, who hails from West Bengal, came to Ghazipur, an area near the Delhi-Ghaziabad border, with his father in search of a better life. Amaruddin’s father used to collect and sort waste at the Ghazipur dumpsite – the oldest site in Delhi commissioned in 1984 – for a living. Carrying forward his legacy are Amaruddin and his brother Allahuddin.
“Waste picking job is demanding. You have to climb the mountain every day and look through the waste. It takes 25 minutes to reach the top,” says Amaruddin.
In the last 20 years, Amaruddin has tried his hands at multiple jobs – as a waste worker at a dumpsite, a helper at a shop and even at Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plant for three to four years.
“At a WTE plant, I used to earn Rs. 12,000 per month, less than what I make from the dumpsite, but I was satisfied because there was a fixed income and a sense of safety and security,” he says.
Currently, Amaruddin is out of work, as the fresh Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) coming to Ghazipur has reduced to around 1,500 Tonnes Per Day (TPD) from 2,000-2,200 TPD until very recently. In addition, trommel machines have been placed at the dumpsite to treat legacy waste that has piled up over the decades, creating a man-made trash mountain of around 40 meters.
In 2019, the height of the Ghazipur dumpsite was 65 meters (213 feet) high, only eight meters short of Qutub Minar, a UNESCO heritage site in Delhi. As per the data received from the MCD, 280 lakh tonnes of legacy waste has been dumped on the three dumpsites as of July 2019, with 140 lakh tonnes on the Ghazipur site alone…
….Air pollution can shorten lives by almost 10 years in the Indian capital, Delhi, the world’s most polluted city, according to the Air Quality Life Index 2022, produced by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). The toxic gases released from WTE add to the pollution burden.