The entrepreneurial spirit of the urban poor should be encouraged
Many of the world’s cities rely on the work of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to collect, sort, process and dispose or recycle what urban dwellers throw away. Operating independently or at times in collectives, this workforce earns an income, not from the city government itself, but from the house-to-house collection of waste, from the sale of scrap materials and from recycling.
With an estimated population of 17 million, approximately 1% or 170,000 persons in the Delhi region handle at least 20% (and up to 59%) of the city’s waste - a major contribution, without which the city would literally be covered with mounds of trash and recyclables.
Since this workforce is not officially appointed by the city or is not employed by anyone, it faces harassment from the police and others in the private waste management system. Because they are poor and work with waste, waste recyclers also are harassed by the general population. Their work is often unsafe, unstable and undervalued.
Watch a short clip of the video 60 Kilos, showing the work of wastepickers and waste recyclers in Delhi. (Photo copyright Mackenzie Berg)
WITNESS has joined forces with Chintan, a Delhi-based organization that uses waste management as a tool to address urban poverty.
Chintan assists wastepickers and waste recyclers in organizing collectives in the Delhi Capital Region and it advocates for their rights at the city and national levels.
Often excluded from urban development plans, the upcoming video advocacy campaign of Chintan and WITNESS will pressure the municipal government of Delhi to include the lives and livelihoods of wastepickers and waste recyclers in the city's development initiatives.
Listen to Chintan's Director, Bharati Chaturvedi, explain the work of Chintan and why everyone should care about the rights of wastepickers and waste recyclers.
Our global cities are growing. As of 2008, 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. The UN Population Fund reports that over the next two decades, the only population growth will be in urban areas.
Urban areas, like India’s capital region of Delhi, face the challenge of meeting the infrastructure demands of its growing population. In two decades, it is estimated that 50% of India’s population will be urban, up from about 25% currently. More people potentially means more jobs, more schools, more public transportation and, of course, more trash.
Given these statistics, city's like Delhi should support the legion of workers already managing a huge sector of the city's waste and recycling by formally recognizing their contributions to the city. And so should we!
You can be a part of this campaign!
WITNESS and Chintan are in the midst of planning the production of an advocacy video to meet this goal. We'd like you to follow us as we prepare the advocacy video and implement the campaign. Return to the Hub Blog for updates on the production process in the weeks and months ahead.
(Photo copyright Mackenzie Berg)