In a country like India, of the national land area of 3,166 lakh hectares, 15% is categorized as wasteland. The wastelands in some of the major urban cities now serve only one purpose- dump yards for the several thousand metric tonnes of daily urban consumer waste. For the most part, there is no way to segregate them and the people who work in these wastelands are exposed to all types of hazardous substances too. There is no safety precautions of gloves, or masks to shield the workers from toxic fumes of burning products(often batteries and plastic and leather) or dangerous sharp objects or dead carcass. The people who work here are mostly migrant workers who have shifted to the city in search of a better option, only to find themselves lost amidst the squalor and the disparity. They are from the lowest rungs of the society-Dalits. After interviewing the people of the community in different places, it was observed that most of them resonated with the same voice-feeble, unheard and desolate. The community that has developed around these regions mainly comprise of the Dalits and Muslims. Most of them are migrant workers whose daily income is much less than the global average minimum. They have houses that are no less than roofed tin boxes covering with one room housing several families and even more(8-10 members). On top of it, is the menace of flies and vector borne diseases, unhealthy drinking water that is mixed with the ground water ,lack of health infrastructure in the communities .The monsoon is one of the worst time, especially in places where drainage is poor, like in Mumbai.
These people have clearly an uncertain future- most of these dumping sites are operating way beyond their capacity, the Deonar dumping ground in Mumbai, one of the oldest, has outlived its capacity and the Dhapa dumping ground in Calcutta also has the same fate. In some places, the land has been given to private contractors for construction of other property as a result of which people might have to be displaced again. There have been talks by state governments and municipal bodies to convert some of these wastelands into energy conversion plants ,but nothing concrete has come up yet .Also, where will these people go once a plant comes up is a matter of concern? Do they even have a better future ? All these questions will never have answers, as we continue to generate waste and take life for granted.
About the author:
Debmalya Ray Choudhuri was born in December 1991. He graduated in mechanical engneering from Jadavpur University, India and started working as a photographer after a brief stint in a corporate house. He works as a freelance photographer and social documentary filmmaker and is associated with several NGOs working for human rights and poverty. He has won numerous awards and his pictures have been published in both national and international platforms like The Guardian, BBC, National Geographic, Better Photography India among others.