The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
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February 14, 2012

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India – 14 Feb 2012 –

Srinagar: Even as the locals who live in the vicinity of the city’s largest garbage dump, Achen, have been demanding that it should be shifted from the area, on the other hand, this dumping site is proving to be a treasure trove for the non-Kashmiri rag pickers.

Every day dozens of trucks filled with the garbage enter Achen. These rag pickers rush to the heaps of garbage to collect plastic items from it. Dozens of these rag pickers – men, women and children sift through the waste every day to earn a livelihood.

With a slim frame and dirty hands, 18 year old Mansi tells her story of poverty, “I am from Rajasthan, I have two little brothers and a sister. I am the elder one and we are collecting plastic items and cardboard boxes from the garbage daily for the past ten years. Because of poverty we can’t do any other job. Earlier we used to collect these items from city but then somebody told us about Achen. Now, we collect all the items easily and earn Rs 50 to 60 every day.”

Spread over 700 kanals on the fringes of Srinagar city, more than 300 tonnes of garbage are deposited everyday at Achen garbage dumping site. However, as per reports the garbage is left without any chemical treatment serving as a breeding ground for many communicable diseases and the work has taken toll on the health of these rag pickers as well as the SMC employees working at the site.

Younis (name changed) has been working as a daily wager in SMC for the past three years. With no protective gear, the work has adversely affected his health. “We are working here continuously without shifts as authorities are not allowing shifts, the garbage left here are not neutralized by chemicals and even if the chemicals are applied they are not sufficient to decompose it. This site has become a godown of diseases,” he says.

Sheikh, who earns Rs 2100 and has four children to feed, says he cannot afford to leave the job. Another rag picker, Fakhruddin (15) has allegedly developed tuberculoses because of consistently working on this hazardous site. “I am working here from last five years, though I wanted to study but poverty didn’t allowed me the same. I don’t care about my health because I have to feed my two little brothers. I do not allow them to work. I can’t leave the job because it is giving me bread.” Read original article