The Invincible Waste Pickers An Occupational Analysis and Case for Integration in Municipal Solid Waste Management in Amritsar City, India

Kiran Sandhu

Abstract


One of the most critical areas of concern in fast urbanizing India relates to the issue of municipal solid waste management in Indian cities. As per estimates (GOI, 2010) urban India currently produces about 70 million tons of waste and this figure is expected to touch an astounding 370 million tons in 2030 given the current spate in the consumption patterns and materialistic lifestyles. Given the current state of affairs it is estimated that only between 30-60% (Rouse, 2006) of the municipal solid waste generated in Indian cities is actually collected and disposed off by the urban local bodies. Out of this collected waste only a fraction i.e., 7% is recycled through composting or WTE (waste to energy) measures and the rest 93% inclusive of the recyclable dry waste find their way into the dumping sites where they are then rummaged by the ragpickers. Thus though the informal sector operations comprising the ragpickers and other informal actors are crucial to the waste management scene in Urban India yet the services provided by this sector is poorly understood or acknowledged and it ends up being projected as illegal and illicit and being looked down upon.

Given the context the research paper aims to highlight the other dimension of waste collection and management in urban India which is the informal waste collection focusing largely on the role of the waste pickers and small time informal scrap dealers. This is done by taking the case study of Amritsar city, which is an important historic centre and a metropolitan city in the state of Punjab, India.

Keywords: Municipal Solid Waste, Ragpicker, Waste Management


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