Sunday, September 18, 2011

Working at the Dump


Outside of Siem Reap in Cambodia, the city where literally hoards of people from around the world arrive to visit the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, sits a unique income generating opportunity for the underclass in this region, the dump. Due to its distance from the city, Siem Reap's dump receives little aid from NGOs. Everyday 140 children and many more adults sort through the smelly paper, glass and plastic. Their schedules are dictated by the arrival of twenty garbage trucks a day from Siem Reap. The location of the dump makes access by NGOs difficult but some are trying to help. According to the article ""Life on the Margins" in the Siem Reap Insider/ Phnom Penh Post:

At the nearby Kaliyann Mitt Centre operated by NGO Friends International, group monitor Kem Phalla said there were 145 children living in the dump according to a survey this year, with 42 attending local schools.  “This is the last place that people come to when they need work,” she said. “Some days the mothers go to the dump and leave their babies for someone to find and take care of, and then go and find a job farming or something else.”  Phalla, who coined the “dirty little secret” moniker for the dump, said casualties from working in its disease-filled environment trickle into the centre’s clinic every few days, with broken bones and infected cuts among the most common injuries.  “Usually if a wound is bad it’s become infected from handling glass bottles. At the centre we mostly try to divert children away from working in the dump towards other jobs. We send the children who want to find skills to our education centre in Siem Reap where they can learn tailoring, cooking and other trades.”

Siem Reap dump, photo: Michael Sloan
However, another dump exists outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the Stung Meanchey. For intrepid visitors, HotelTravel.com says, “If you ever wanted to remind your children how lucky they are, this is the place to bring them.” Dump tourism, who'd have thought. On a visit to Phnom Penh in 2006 a friend and frequent visitor to the city first made me aware of this unique travel opportunity when she told me about the dump and offered to arrange a visit. The Stung Meanchey dump is even mentioned in a two-page photo essay in a university textbook for introduction to sociology courses by James M. Henslin. But Cambodia is not the only place where the poor can scrap out a living on garbage.

While visiting India to volunteer for Empower the Children,
Garbage sorting, Dakshindari slum
I accompanied some children on a tour of their 'slum' in Kolkata called Dakshindari. Throughout the lanes people could be seen methodically separating the waste into metal, plastic, glass, etc., both in the street and in their yards. Old and young were at work. Some women looked to be in their 80s as they sat bent over with gnarled hands working quickly as they looked nimbly for 'treasures.'

The Global Post recently ran a photo essay titled, "Disposable Communities: living and working in the world's largest trash dumps (see below). These workers help countries recycle their garbage cheaply. However, the dangers of this activity are horrific: the health hazards associated with picking through medical waste, getting crushed by the huge machinery disposing of and moving around the waste, and the menace of disease and ailments from parasites and bacteria found in decaying food sometimes consumed on the spot by hungry workers. It's not a career of choice, but for hundreds of thousands of people around the world it holds both a means of survival and a daily threat of death.

Click here for the entire photo essay from Global Post or continue below to view the photos only.

Here are images of people who make their living in some of the largest dumps in the world.
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An Indian worker carries a bag of recyclable materials to sell from the 70 acre Ghazipur Landfill Site on February 18, 2010 in east Delhi, India. The estimated number of rag-pickers in Delhi is believed to be the range of 80,000 to 100,000.
(Daniel Berehulak - AFP/Getty Images)

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Palestinian youths wait for a garbage truck to unload a fresh mount at a dump in the village of Yatta in the southern West Bank on February 23, 2011 in hopes of scavenging their daily pay of around five dollars.
(Menahem Kahana - AFP/Getty Images)

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An Afghan man wears a tire around his neck while sorting through plastic and metal items near a rubbish dump on October 27, 2010 on the southern outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. According to the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA), about 15 million people throughout the developing world earn a living from collecting garbage.
(Majid Saeedi - AFP/Getty Images)

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Indian workers sort through garbage at the 70 acre Ghazipur Landfill Site on February 18, 2010 in east Delhi, India.
(Daniel Berehulak - AFP/Getty Images)

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A scavenger watches as a Greenpeace activist wearing protective suits prepares to take trash samples from the dumpsite in Taytay town east of Manila on June 23, 2009. The activists took trash samples after shutting down the dump site, which they accuse of polluting the shores of Laguna Lake and sorrounding community.
(Ted Aljibe - AFP/Getty Images)

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Jardim Gramacho, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, one of the largest landfills in the world.
(Google Maps - Screengrab)

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A woman who picks through trash for a living displays her manicured fingernails at the Jardim Gramacho waste disposal site on December 9, 2009 in Jardim Gramacho, Brazil.
(Spencer Platt - AFP/Getty Images)

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A baby cries as it lies in its cot inside a makeshift home constructed on a garbage dump July 28, 2003 on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq.
(Graeme Robertson - AFP/Getty Images)

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Afghans sort through plastic and metal items near a rubbish dump on October 27, 2010 on the southern outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Majid Saeedi - AFP/Getty Images)

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A dog walks through the litter strewn streets of the Jardim Gramacho waste disposal site on December 9, 2009 in Jardim Gramacho, Brazil.
(Spencer Platt - AFP/Getty Images)

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A teenager who makes his living picking through trash pauses at the Jardim Gramacho waste disposal site on December 9, 2009 in Jardim Gramacho, Brazil.
(Spencer Platt - AFP/Getty Images)

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Discarded medical pills strewn over a rubbish dump in a suburb of Beijing. China March 2, 2011.
(Gou Yige - AFP/Getty Images)

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Indian workers sort through garbage and pick out recyclable materials to sell from the 70 acre Ghazipur Landfill Site, February 18, 2010 in east Delhi, India. A wide range of materials and items are involved, such as, paper, cardboard, plastics, metals, glass, rubber, leather, textiles and clothing etc.
(Daniel Berehulak - AFP/Getty Images)

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A man soaps himself on a dump after a day's work, 17 April 2007, in Lagos. Olusosun Land Fill Site is Nigeria's largest rubbish dump dealing with 2,400 metric tons of rubbish every day. A whole community live on the dump, collecting the scrap and trading it for money.
(Lionel Healing - AFP/Getty Images)

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A Pakistani boy runs at the garbage dump site at the slum area of Lahore, Pakistan on December 29, 2010.
(Arif Ali - AFP/Getty Images)

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Mongolians work collecting and recycling at a dump keeping warm by a fire on March 5, 2010 in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. Working at the garbage dump means extreme hardship, long hours outside in frigid temperatures dropping below -13F in the winter.
(Paula Bronstein - AFP/Getty Images)

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Brother and sister, Basir, eight years old, and Ratna, find a map amongst the rubbish at the Bantar Gebang landfill site, one of Jakarta's biggest dump sites, on January 26, 2010 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
(Ulet Ifansasti - AFP/Getty Images)

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Eleven-year-old Nung, stands on the mountain of rubbish where she will collect plastic, at the Bantar Gebang landfill site, one of Jakarta's biggest dump sites, on January 27, 2010 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
(Ulet Ifansasti - AFP/Getty Images)

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People scavenge at the large Bantargebang rubbish dump in Bekasi on February 17, 2007 near Jakarta, Indonesia. Hundreds of Indonesians risk disease and other dangers in their struggle to find items to sell to dealers.
(Dimas Ardian - AFP/Getty Images)

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A Palestinian youth rests at a makeshift camp near a garbage dump in the village of Yatta in the southern West Bank on February 23, 2011.
(MENAHEM KAHANA - AFP/Getty Images)

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Indian workers talk amongst themselves after having sorted through garbage to collect recyclable materials to sell from the 70 acre Ghazipur Landfill Site on February 18, 2010 in east Delhi, India.
(Daniel Berehulak - AFP/Getty Images)

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A truck belonging to an American NGO empties a load of earthquake rubble at an unofficial dump in front of a community called Village Alpha, March 8, 2011 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The dump, rising 15 feet above street level is a wasteland of earthquake rubble and household trash left by those poorly served by the city's public sanitation service.
(Allison Shelley - AFP/Getty Images)

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