Waste — its generation, collection, and disposal — is a major global challenge of the 21st century. Recycling waste drives environmental sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulates the economy by supplying raw materials and packaging materials.
Despite the fact that cities, even those in the developing world, in the present era of globalization, have emerged as significant actors in the global economic and political arena, generating more opportunities, yet urban poverty continues to persist and is infact growing as trends indicate.
The Human Development Report puts India at th rank in a list of countries and in context of Human Poverty Index, India is ranked 58th in the list of developing countries. The growing incidence and concentration of urban poverty in Indian cities is indicative of the fact that the policies and programmes of the governments have not really been able to target and alleviate poverty owing to a number of reasons including the failure to understand the multidimensional nature of poverty.
The issue of urban poverty is intricately related to waste Gupta, Popularly known as Rag pickers this segment of urban poor is one of the most disadvantaged communities and are the poorest of the poor as also a very vulnerable segment of the population, vulnerable to health hazards due to their scavenging activities as well as vulnerable to exploitation and social stigma.
Despite their significant role in waste management in a city, this group enjoys no recognition, no job security or any form of social welfare safety net. This invisible section of the society is not the target of welfare schemes and policies of the government.
Their livability is a stark reflection of the harshness and the vicious circle of poverty that inflicts them. In context of this backdrop the study is an attempt to understand the multi dimensional nature of poverty and its impacts on livability taking the case of the rag pickers in Mumbai.
From a current per capita rate of grams this is expected to touch grams by Thus modern urban living has brought on the problem of waste which is increasing in quality and changes in composition with every passing day.
However the waste collection and disposal mechanisms of the ULBs continue to be equally alarming. Out of this collected waste only a fraction i. These rag pickers are a vital part of the informal waste recycling sector and in a way contribute to improving the city environs and aiding the ULBs in waste management in our cities though one might argue that this unintentional contribution is primarily due to economic compulsions.
Thus the informal waste management sector saves municipality considerable funds that would be needed to manage the waste currently handled by the informal operations. Thus though the informal sector operations are crucial to the waste management scene in Urban India yet the services provided by this sector is poorly understood or acknowledged and it ends up being projected as illegal and illicit and being looked down upon.
The rag picker being at the bottom of the rung of the informal sector waste recycling operations is the biggest sufferer economically as well as socially.
Given the current trends of the move towards privatization of the solid waste management in Indian cities along with options of adoption of western management models and with no approach to integrate the informal sector operations into these neo-models, the rag picker community faces a severe danger of loosing this informal occupation as well.
Rag pickers in Urban India; An overview The rag pickers can be described as important stakeholders in the waste recycling process as their presence allows for a very thorough recovery of recyclables.
However these stakeholders earn very low returns particularly women and children who are usually economically exploited by the small and medium scale scrap dealers. A majority of the rag pickers enter this occupation to escape chronic rural poverty as also due to lack of skills required in other occupations.
For most first time rural to urban migrants rag picking is often the only informal occupation that can absorb them and give them a small economic respite to survive. Perhaps no other informal occupational setup can be described as more health hazardous as that of the rag pickers.
These rag pickers delve through garbage dumps and landfill sites to collect recyclable materials but in the process are exposed to non segregated hazardous wastes and gases from the landfills that lead to major health impairments in them. A study of health issues amongst rag pickers in Delhi by Ray et.
The prevalence of diarrhea, dermatitis, scabies and other skin infections, musco skeletal diseases, infections from direct contact with contaminated materials, cuts and puncture wounds leading to tetanus, hepatitis or even HIV infection, headaches and nausea caused from anoxic conditions.
Infact a serious side effect of the waste handling is that the filthy nature of work demotivates the rag pickers to take good care of their own personal hygiene making them more susceptible then they already are. In addition to economic hardships the rag pickers face severe social stigma wherein people see them as a class of untouchables, antisocial elements and subject them to harassment, discrimination and seclusion.
Studies reveal that a majority of them have faced some form of harassment by the police or the economically better strata. Besides public policy too has been considering scavenging more or less as a nuisance or a problem to be eliminated. As such all solid waste management proposals entirely overlook the poor rag pickers.
For instance the Municipal Solid Waste Rules that provide a framework for the ULBs for waste management, while highlighting the importance of waste recycling and directing the ULB to undertake the same by involving people in at source segregation but fails to mention or direct the ULB to integrate or work in partnership with the informal waste management sector to ensure a higher rate of waste collection and recycling in pursuit of the broader objective of zero waste and healthy cities.
Thus in the absence of any support the rag pickers continue to live in severe poverty conditions marked by high levels of exploitation and deprivation.
As mentioned earlier, there have been some isolated cases wherein the NGOs are playing an important role in getting the services of the rag pickers recognized and working towards their upliftment within the same occupational sector.
The Stree Mukti Sanghatana, an NGO in Mumbai is running programmes to help rag pickers overcome their disadvantages by organizing savings and credits, literacy classes, etc. Incase of Hyderabad the Jubilee Hills Exnora Residents Association has employed rag pickers to collect waste in their area wherein the rag pickers have the security of a regular income as well as retain access to waste and earn money from its recycling as well.
Therefore the JHE has been able to make a difference in their lives by providing avenue for upward economic mobility to a small group of rag pickers.
A good example of a ULB taking initiative comes from Pune wherein rag pickers are registered with the Pune Municipal Corporation as authorized official waste collectors and have also been assured health insurance.This paper demonstrates the role of rag pickers in the management of solid waste, their socio economical status, and the effects on their health due to frugal management systems in Mirzapur, a known town of Uttar Pradesh in India.
Brazil was the first country to integrate waste pickers, through their cooperatives, into municipal solid waste management systems and the first to adopt a National Waste Policy, recognizing the contributions of waste pickers and providing a legal framework to enable cooperatives of waste pickers to contract as service providers.
waste-pickers in a dynamic model of solid-waste management in developing countries an important role in solid waste management systems, acting in a parallel way to formal waste collection and disposal agents. Scavengers collect, from the streets, dumpsites, or. Solidwaste Management and role of rag pickers.
Rag-pickers, who contribute to solid waste management to some extent, are the people who rummage through garbage bins to pick out 'rags' for.
Public health and sanitation: Waste pickers collect garbage from neighborhoods that lack public services. Without waste pickers, residents would be forced to burn trash, or dispose of it in rivers, streets and empty lots.
Waste pickers provide the only solid waste removal service in many cities. Women waste pickers of Matuail has formed a Waste Pickers' cooperative. In Pune (India) there are a worker cooperative of Waste Pickers, called SWaCH.
SWaCH is an acronym for Solid Waste Collection Handling that also means clean, in the local language.