Day in, day out with garbage

The sun rises everyday for Ronnie, Hakim, Sohel, Sufia and Saathi with the same message: run to the dumpsite, sift through tonnes of garbage and bring back whatever reusable there is. The task is hazardous and exposes them to a wide range of diseases, some of which could even lead to premature death. They have little choice, though.

Life for them — all aged below five — and a couple of hundred other children have been sifting through rubbish for survival. Some 300 people, mostly women and children, converge at the Matuail dumpsite early morning everyday, searching for something in the piles of solid waste that could be recycled.

Little do they know what a dire consequence constant exposure to millions of micro-organisms and toxic chemicals, let alone minor cuts and pricks of rusty nails, may lead to.

Besides, a moment of carelessness could mean death under the wheels of rushing-in garbage trucks. A boy met a gory death this way only a few months back. The peak hours for them come in the morning and in the evening when the Dhaka City Corporation garbage trucks dump the waste.

The children get some time at midday or in the afternoon ‘to rest or play, as we don’t have to go to school’, says Ronnie. “The waste field and the dump platform is our playground.” Also on the dump platform are some tea stalls and snacks shop for them to get refreshed. There is no facility to stay overnight, though. According to experts, accumulation of solid waste helps breed micro-organism, insects and rodents thus threatening public health.

Liquid that percolates through the soil contains a wide range of dissolved organic and inorganic contaminants including heavy metals either in dissolved or in suspended form. “Contamination of the surface water and the groundwater at and around the dumping sites are a great health and environmental concern,” says Dr Mahbubur Rahman, a microbiologist at the Dhaka Medical College.

“Methane and other gases generate at the dumpsites from anaerobic decomposition of organic wastes in a natural process. It takes place in all landfills exceeding a depth of two to three metres. “Beside methane, trace gas emission from landfills creates health problems because of their toxic nature.

“More than 150 compounds have been detected in gas samples from various landfills, many of these might be classified as volatile organic compounds that are also also harmful to health.” A survey conducted by the Dhaka City Corporation in 1999 shows that the city generates on an average 3,500 tonnes of solid waste everyday. About 49 per cent of the total waste comes from households while the rest industrial and other sources. The city corporation dumps the solid waste in low-lying areas of Matuail, Demra and Gabtoli. Source: New Age, January 02, 2004

Top of page
Traged in the Himalays and Ganges-Brahmaputra Plain
Back to Environment
Development Program
Home Garden