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Rag pickers toil in unhygienic condition as authorities turn blind eye



Early in the morning when students dress up for school and employees get ready for their offices, Danbir Pariyar prepares to leave for a place everyone prefers to avoid: a landfill site.

Going to Khudurke, a landfill site situated on the outskirts of the Baglung district headquarters Baglung Bazar, is part of 74-year-old Danbir´s daily routine. Pariyar has been scavenging to earn his livelihood for the last 14 years.

Danbir has nobody to look after him as his son, tired by his father´s recurrent illness, abandoned him few years ago. That was the reason why the septuagenarian, left to fend for himself, was standing barefoot amid heaps of stinking garbage. A dozen other people were seen picking plastic waste from the landfill along with Danbir.

Exposed hands, bare feet and no mask to protect them from harmful air in and around the dumping site, each of them had a story either of a broken family, loneliness or chronic illness.

Radhika Pariyar, 52, who comes to sift through the garbage with her son, has an equally sad story. Her husband deserted her when her son Lali was too young to understand anything, said Danbir on her behalf. Radhika cannot speak. Lali is reluctant to talk to anyone about his family or occupation as he is too busy filling his sack as soon as possible. He sells five sacks full of plastic every day making Rs 50 per sack.

The rag pickers here belong to Dalit community, who has been doing this job since a long time. Kissan Nepali, a 7-year-old son of Laxmi Nepali, waits for his mother to appear out of the heap of garbage at a temporary hut made by rag pickers themselves to take shelter during rainy season. Though he was supposed to go to school, his younger brother´s illness forced him to stay back as his mother is busy throughout the day collecting plastic.


Laxmi complains that the contribution of his community in managing waste has always been unrecognized. “We get infected with various diseases while working here, but none has extended their support to us,” she said.

She blames the local organizations of minting money by showing their pathetic condition to donors. “So many organizations come to ask what we eat, where we live and take our pictures, but we do not receive any help even when our children are deprived of education and good health,” said Laxmi. Responding to the rag pickers´ complaints, executive officer of the Baglung Municipality Hari Dutta Kandel said that no government or non-government organization has deployed them to pick plastic from the landfill site and it was their own choice.

“The community used to sell plastic waste from Muldhunga earlier, when we did not have a managed disposal site. But the local club has been conducting awareness program considering their health and hygiene as well,” he claimed.

Spread over 11 ropanis of land, Khudurke was identified as the landfill site one year ago with increased production of waste in the district headquarters. According to Engineer Trilochan Giri of Baglung Municipality, the waste production in the town has swelled to 6 ton per day. Till 2012, only around 4 ton waste was produced in the town on a daily basis.
Earlier, the waste produced from the households and public organizations was directly disposed on the banks of Kali Gandaki River in Maldhunga.

As the waste production keeps on mounting because of the increasing population, the municipality is looking forward to negotiate with donors on implementing a long term plan that would offer permanent solution to the waste disposal problem.

“The waste production increased to two tons per day within a year. We fear that the current landfill site, too, would prove insufficient soon,” said the executive officer Kandel.
The Kanthe and Bunde Rivers, on which the municipality plans rely for supplying water to the town in future, are also at the risk of contamination. However, to protect the water sources from further pollution, the municipality is currently disposing 90 percent of the total waste produced in the town at the landfill site.

Jasbire Tole cleanest

Even though the message of utilizing waste is yet to reach here, few localities have formed their own groups to keep their homes and localities clean. Jasbire Tole, situated at the heart of Baglung Bazaar, is the latest example.

A committee formed to raise fund from the total 44 households in the small locality, collected Rs 100 from every family to place a dustbin near the compound gate of each home. Rana Singh Thapa, chairperson of the committee, said that everyone in the locality is following the norms of throwing the waste into dustbin.
Thapa, an employee of Kasthamandap Bank, says that he has also urged the locals to manage the organic waste at home itself and throw only non-biodegradable wastes into their dustbins.

To conduct other programs of sanitation, the committee has currently collected around Rs 280,000 from the locals. The amount would be spent on constructing sewerage.
“Currently, we are trying to get people into the habit of throwing the waste into the garbage,” said Thapa, expressing his hopefulness that the folks would soon start segregating the biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes.

In his own initiative, Thapa has made sure that waste collectors come to collect the waste on time. A logbook has been placed near the waste collection center. The waste collecting vehicle´s driver has to sign on the logbook confirming that the waste was transported on a particular day.

In case the municipality´s vehicle does not come for three days, the committee chairperson himself knocks on the door of the local body to pressurize them to collect the waste as soon as possible.

“A locality can be developed only with the participation of locals. We don´t hesitate to visit the municipality for whatever we want,” Thapa said.


Source: Republica Daily


Published on 2014-01-18 23:54:49

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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