CLEANLINESS WARRIORS A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
BY STUDENTS OF B.A (JOURNALISM & MASS COMMUNICATION) 2017-20 BATCH
SCHOOL OF MEDIA & LIBERAL ARTS
Cover Image by SOUMYA SRIVASTAVA
SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM COMES TO INDIA
raditionally, newspaper headlines follow the ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ dictum, with ‘bad’ news being ‘good’ news for journalists. Solutions Journalism finds the way forward by reporting not only the good things happening in society but by taking it forward and looking at sustainable solutions. At Bennett University we initiated our students in Solutions Journalism this year, becoming the first university in India to do so. The students researched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to find examples of how individuals and organisations are blazing new trails. They were taken on three field visits organised by the school to a Ghazipur slum adjacent to Delhi’s largest landfill, to the Sulabh International headquarters in Dwarka and to one of India’s ODF villages, Marora in Mewat district, Haryana. Other than these visits, the students visited several places to collect first-hand information. The students findings are published in this e-zine as text reports, slide shows and video stories. We consider Solutions Journalism to be a continuing work and will add more student articles on the subject in the student website www.timesofbennett.com.
Vidya Deshpande & P Ramesh Kumar
Lead Faculty, Solutions Journalism School of Media & Liberal Arts Bennett University
Our special thanks to: 1 Sulabh International, Founder Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak and Madan Jha, PR & Communication Officer, for spending time with our students and organising their field trip to Marora. 1
Bharti Chaturvedi, Chitra Banerjee and Sapna of Chintan for the field visit to Ghazipur.
Kushagra Gupta of Saahas & Latika Thukral of I Am Gurgaon for the field visits in Gurgaon.
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A lady cooking her meals outside her shanty in a Delhi slum. Photo by MANVI SINGH
A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
08 | A ‘Nai Disha’ for manual scavengers TARU MEDHA recounts the story of Usha Chaumar, who has been free from the scourge of manual scavenging and is leading a better life.
12 | How a dirty drain in Gurugram became clean & green MOHMMAD HAARIS BEG takes a walk along the Wazirabad bund to find Gurugram’s dirtiest drain turned into a green, eco-friendly park.
16 | Poor waste policy is to blame for Delhi’s air pollution HARSHIT MANSUKHANI looks at innovative ways to manage landfills so that Delhi’s air pollution is controlled.
20 | Women’s initiative transforms this Delhi slum Can the helpless conditions of Delhi’s slums be changed for the better? MANVI SINGH does a reality check.
24 | Finally, manual scavengers get a better life Bindeshwar Pathak offered manual scavengers a way out of their despicable lives, by training them to earn a living by doing a more respectable job, says KRITIKA LALWANI
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28 | Pink toilets: Hit or flop? PARKHI RAWAT visits a ‘pink toilet’ in Delhi to check whether it holds out the promises made when these exclusive women’s toilets were built.
32 | Building toilets may reduce crimes against women TRIYA GULATI speaks to some women who were happy to have toilets in their homes, as they didn’t have to risk their lives by going to the fields.
44 | Can we have an Open Defecation Free society? It is possible to change habits and make people ‘do their business’ in toilets? LAKSHAY KUMAR visits Marora village in Haryana, that has shown the way.
48 | E-waste: Concern for the modern world How do you dispose of your gadgets once their life is over? RIDDHI DIWEDI tells you how to trash them in the right manner.
52 | Segregating waste can be a boon for cities With the focus on segregation and recycling, Alappuzha and Panaji have reduced waste generation, says SAKSHI GARG.
56 | How a Delhi society cleaned up its act DAKSH GOGIA says that the way Sunder Vihar fought all odds to make waste segregation a doable process could be an inspiration for other societies.
58 | A tale of two slums Destiny is cruel to many slum dwellers. Some are unable to change it while others are able to change it for the better with the help of the community, says AANCHAL SINGLA.
68 | ‘Will we get a chance to lead hygienic lives?’ People struggling for survival may not be in a position to choose the right attitude towards hygiene despite awareness, says TANVI MISHRA.
72 | Ash handling: Why should it be taken seriously? The Ministry of Environment and Forests made it mandatory for every thermal power plant to have an action plan for 100% ash utilisation, says WRITAVA BANERJEE.
78 | The tough life of Ghazipur slum dwellers MUSKAN BABUTA finds life is hell for the rag-pickers who live in Ghazipur slum, without proper sanitation, drinking water facilities and a clean toilet.
82 | ‘Karo Sambhav’: making India e-waste free Karo Sambhav is an organisation which deals with electronic waste and suggests ways to reduce it by collaborating with other NGOs, says MANYA KASHYAP.
84 | Compost machines must for garbage-free India SHIVANSHI TOMER finds a society in Gurugram, which is whole-heartedly making its premises clean, is planning to install a compost machine.
102 | Is there any hope for the residents of Ghazipur slum? The condition of the Ghazipur slum is way beyond imagination. The slum, with its narrow and filthy streets is home to 1,500 families of rag-pickers, says VANI KAUL.
104 | How ‘Sulabh’changed lives of manual scavengers Imagine getting up in the morning and immersing yourself neck-deep in sewage. What could be more loathsome than that, asks LAKSHAY SHARMA.
107 | Reasons for open defecation are just excuses Poverty keeps residents of slums in East Delhi from building their own toilets while the municipal corporation looks the other way, says MUSKAAN JAIN. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Life in Ghazipur
A day at Marora village
by ADITI GIRI
by MANSI JAIN
The toilet manâ€™s dream: Saying no to open defecation
Ghazipur: a difficult place to live in
A visit to Ghazipur slum gave firsthand knowledge of the problems concerning waste segregation. Itâ€™s painful to see people struggling to make a living. | P 36
by LALIT DHAVAN
Museum of Toilets in New Delhi, run by Sulabh International, is dedicated to the global history of sanitation and toilets. It was founded by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak. | P 88
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Students of Bennett University spent a day at Marora village (Mewat) to understand how people live in a slum and captured these pictures. | P 62
by NANDINI BISHNOI
Ghazipur, a slum in Uttar Pradesh, which is not more than a hell for the people living there. The slum is known to residents of Delhi-NCR because of the landfill nearby. Proximity to the landfill is a recipe for diseases. | P 94
CLEANLINESS IN SLUMS: A walk through a slum in Ghazipur.
URBAN WASTE DISPOSAL: Ignorance is the real threat.
ATTITUDE TO HYGIENE: Some canâ€™t choose to be hygienic.
OPEN DEFECATION & TOILETS: Women are vulnerable to crimes.
MANUAL SCAVENGING: Despite the ban, the practice continues.
WASTE SEGREGATION: Who will sort the mess?
CLEANLINESS IN RESIDENTIAL SOCIETIES: Dirty by nature?
A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
A ‘Nai Disha’ in Rajasthan
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How manual scavengers of Alwar overcame their dreadful past BY TARU MEDHA
Every morning, these women stepped out of their homes, not to go worship in the temple, but to flush out excreta from the latrines of people living in their own village. They were manual scavengers, the emblems of the tragic fallout of India’s long-standing caste-based society. “I was just seven when I started going out with my mother to learn the job, since it was expected of me,” says Usha Chaumar, a former manual scavenger from Alwar, Rajasthan. Manual scavenging, the act of cleaning human excrement from dry latrines, has always been executed by the ‘untouchables’. In addition, it is mostly women who are forced to carry out such abominable task. Women in families like Usha’s have been working as manual scavengers for generations. By virtue of widespread discrimination against people of their caste, they were never able to raise themselves out of their dark and unrewarding profession.“Our mothers would tell us that we had no other option but to continue working as manual scavengers. Even if we tried to sell vegetables or stitch clothes, nobody would buy them since we were considered to be “untouchables,” recalls Usha. Marriage also did not come as a respite for these women. They got married to men of the same caste which resulted in both of them continuing to do similar work.
Usha Chaumar (Left, first row) with other former manual scavengers from Alwar who have been rehabilitated by Sulabh International. Photo by TARU MEDHA A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
She smiles despite all the hardships in her life. Photo by MANVI SINGH 10 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Does manual scavenging still prevail ? Manual scavenging, apart from being an unpleasant task is also unsafe for the people doing it. Usha recalls how one of her companions had lost her eyesight after the acid they would use to clean the latrines went in her eyes. “We would suffer constant headaches and spells of vomiting. The doctors never told us that our work was the reason for our ill health,” she says. This remains an everyday reality for such women despite the fact that Government of India had passed a law making employment of manual scavengers a punishable offence. The first of these laws was passed in 1993 and then amended in 2013. Regardless of the law, practises like these are rampant and unchecked even today. Thousands of women all across the country are still subjected to disgrace and humiliation by being forced to become manual scavengers.
“We now work as beauticians and seamstresses and make edibles, all of which are bought by the same people in whose homes we used to work as scavengers” -Usha Chaumar Is there a ray of hope? However, the circumstances are not as dismal as they may seem. Usha and others like her in Alwar today say that they used to do so because were successful in lighting up lives from the darkness of this contemptible practice. Sulabh International, a social service organisation working to promote sanitation and making India clean and open defecation free helped such people in coming out of their living nightmare. This organisation was able to eradicate the practice of manual scavenging in these few villages completely. Sulabh International aided them by ensuring the construction of toilets in every home, school and college in their villages. Along with that, the organisation worked extensively for the rehabilitation of these women scavengers. ‘Nai Disha’, a centre started by Sulabh International in Alwar, provides women who have given up manual scavenging with vocational training which has helped them rebuild and transform their lives. “We now work as beauticians, seamstresses and make edibles - pickles and papads (a thin crisp cake made of seasoned black gram flour) all of which are bought by the same people in whose homes we used to work as scavengers,” says Usha Chaumar, who is now the President of Sulabh International. She and her companions are now working towards educating and rehabilitating other women scavengers. How technology rescues manual scavengers? Technology has also proved to be a saviour for scavengers, especially in Kerala. A group of engineers from Kerala assembled a robot that can clean manholes and drains with ease, named it Bandicoot, according to a report by The Hindu titled ‘Bandicoot to the rescue’ dated February 27, 2018, on the official launch of the robot by the state government. Initiatives like Bandicoot and that taken by Sulabh International give the thousands of existing manual scavengers in the country the hope of freedom from poverty and destitution. It promises them a way to a better and respectful life. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
How Gurugramâ€™s dirty drain became clean and green 12 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Mohammad Haaris Beg takes a walk along the Wazirabad Bund to find Gurugram’s dirtiest drain turned into a green an eco-friendly park. Sometimes when you walk across a small bridge in the middle of the city, there is this stench that follows you. What is this stench? Where is it coming from? What is underneath the bridge? Usually there’s a “nala”, a drain that was probably built to carry rain water outside the city, but is now filled with garbage and filth. But there is an exception, which is the Wazirabad Drain in Gurugram. It used to be filled with muck and was an eyesore. Today, the people of Gurugram have turned a drain into an eco-friendly zone, green zone, with no stench or garbage ruining the area. It was an eyesore! The Wazirabad Drain is a 28 km long and 30-40 meter wide and was the cause of many problems in the city. It cut across entire Gurugram and meets the Najafgarh drain in Delhi. The Wazirabad Drain is a storm water drain that was built 50-70 years ago. The water in the drain comes from the Aravali Hills. It was built to prevent floods. However, there was so much garbage in the drain that it did not allow water to flow through it causing water logging problems. In July 2017, the Haryana Urban Development Association (HUDA) decided that it was going to rehabilitate the drain. HUDA along with NGO ‘I Am Gurugram’, backed by corporate funding and the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) planned to clean a 5.2 km stretch of the drain and turn it into an eco-friendly zone. Clearing 180 trucks of garbage! The first step was to take the plastic out of the drain. “It was a difficult task as the plastic had been lying there for 25 years,” said Latika Thukral, Head of ‘I am Gurugram’, an NGO which works for the greenery inS the city. “An astonishing 180 trucks worth of garbage was taken out from the drain,” Thukral said. Considering that the average truck can carry up to 3000 pounds of filth, a grand total of over 5 lakh pounds of garbage was taken out of the drain. A cycle track has been constructed beside the drain, which will be very useful to many people as it cuts across the city, providing short and safe route for pedestrians and cyclists to travel. It will be very useful for walking and for school going children,” said Nandini Bishnoi a visitor to the eco-friendly park. Building a green zone After the garbage was taken out it was time for HUDA to utilize the recently cleaned area around the drain that was lying useless. HUDA along with MCG started building a cycle track and a pedestrian walking path along the drain. “We have finished constructing 2.2 km of the cycle path and plan to extend it to 5.5 km,” Latika said. They have also planted trees all around the drain to make the area eco-friendly. And what’s more they used the malba from construction sites nearby to build the bund. Nearly 10,000 saplings have been planted around the drain. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
The track was built using left-over road constuction material Photo by NANDINI BISHNOI “I could not believe that is was a nala, now there is hardly any garbage in it. I appreciate the efforts of Latika and her team, they have done a fantastic job,” said Daksh Gogia who had recently visited Wazirabad Drain for the first time. Drains are scattered all over India, spreading the same stench. Some of these drains used to be rivers but now they have turned into stinking drains because of continuous onslaught of garbage and sewage by the public and the government. A clear example of this is the Najafgarh Drain in Delhi & NCR that used to be Sahibi River but was turned into a drain because of continuous sewage dumping by the residents of Gurugram and Delhi. The drain accounts for 30 per cent of sewage found in Delhi. An example to follow The major problem with these drains is that they are located in the heart of Delhi, causing the whole area to stink. Due to extensive garbage dumping these drains have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and harbor other such disease-causing vectors. The government has woke-up from hibernation and has been trying to clean these drains for many years. There is so much garbage dumped in the nalas that a literal mountain can be formed .However, it is not an impossible task as Gurugram has proved. Going Green “The newly constructed cycle track is made out to reused road construction material thereby sharply decreasing the cost of the construction,” Thukral said. The entire fencing of the drain has been done by the MCG. Children have started to use the cycle track to go the school, its gates are constructed in such a way that no motorcycle can pass through it, making it safe for children. The pedestrian path has a special tactile surface that makes it possible for blind people to walk on it without losing their way. 14 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Children walk home on the newly constructed walkway Photo by NANDINI BISHNOI The cleaning of the drain is a noble gesture but there are some retractors. Some people are still dumping garbage in the drain while those who have illegally encroached on the drain refuse to let go. “The cycle path is facing some vandalism issues, where people are breaking gates and stealing overhead lights. However, all these are minor inconveniences towards a greater goal,” Thukral said. There are thousands of drains in India with even more garbage dumped in them than Wazirabad. The government and the people should take inspiration from HUDA’s efforts. This is an example that will prove that there is no garbage mountain that cannot be cleaned. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Poor waste management to blame for Delhiâ€™s pollution?
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Living in Delhi might be dangerous for your health because of rising pollution levels. Harshit Mansukhani digs deeper to find out why is Delhi is seemingly losing its battle with pollution. A workforce of almost 46,000 rag pickers goes through the waste generated by Delhiites to segregate the reusable from the rest.Yet, according to a report published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2013, out of the total waste collected, only 12.45 per cent of the waste is scientifically processed and rest is disposed in open dumps. Every day 9,400 tonnes of garbage is being produced and is not being managed appropriately. This poses serious threats to the Delhiâ€™s air quality as dust and other particulates from the dumps are spread across the city by the wind.
Ghazipur landfill site was due to close in 2005 but still continues to operate Photo by SAKSHI GARG A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Threats from garbage The waste produced is called municipal solid waste and is managed by local government bodies and some non-profit organisations. Annually, about 3.8 million tons of municipal solid waste is generated in Delhi. This ranges from dust gathered while sweeping streets to debris generated in construction sites. This waste occupies one-third of the total space available in landfill sites across the city. “I have been doing this for last seven years and I have come across a lot of filth and dirt which people generate daily. This dirt not only includes newspapers but liquor bottles and plastic,” said Ram Yadav, a rag picker in Dwarka, in south west Delhi. “This business is not organised; I do not know where this garbage goes and how it is treated. I earn my living by collecting the items that can be sold in the market, the rest is probably sent to local dumpsites,” Yadav said. These rag pickers separate the different articles in the garbage and make separate piles.Wet waste is sent to compost plants and the rest is dumped in landfills. Delhi’s trash mountains The Ghazipur landfill is one of the biggest landfills in India; from a distance it looks like a mountain. Over the years the garbage has piled up to create this mountain. It omits a stench that is unbearable, yet many people live beside it. On September 2, 2017 a large chunk of garbage of fell on the road beside the landfill, killing two people and injuring many. The government took several steps after this including banning the dumping of garbage in Ghazipur. However, people took little notice as tons of garbage is still being dumped here. Municipal solid waste is managed by three municipal bodies in the national capital. These are: • Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) • New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) • Delhi Cantonment Board (DCB)
With high levels of pollution, Delhiites find a way to save themselves from toxic air. Photo by SAKSHI GARG 18 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Prof. S.M. Akhtar of Jamia Millia Islamia University says Delhi’s studies are faulty. Photo by HARSHIT MANSUKHANI In Delhi, the waste generated from houses reaches the dumpsters and is then taken to landfills to be segregated. “We have provided local carry vans and all the equipment needed to ensure 100% waste segregation, this has helped since people have become more aware of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and have taken steps in that direction.” says Yogender Mann, Public Relations Director, North and East MCD. Not only Delhi but no other city in India can claim that it has segregated 100% of the total waste generated as only 70% of this waste is actually segregated. The remaining 30% gets mixed up and lost in the urban environment. How is it related to air pollution? “I believe that the major source of pollution is dust particles from construction sites and landfills. All this catalyzes the depletion of watersheds and the green cover of the city.” said S.M Akhtar, a professor of environmental studies at Jamia Millia Islamia University who has claimed that the studies conducted on Delhi’s air pollution are faulty as these were done using wrong parameters. Micro forests: The Solution? Akhtar said that while other big cities such as Mumbai are linear in construction, Delhi is non- linear. The nonlinear construction of Delhi allows the wind to blow in every direction inside the city, causing the dust particles from landfills to be spread everywhere. Akhtar has suggested the creation of micro-forests perpendicular to major wind directions in the city and making winter a no-construction season to reduce the air circulation problems. Akhtar also attributed Delhi’s air pollution problem to the increasing use of private transport in the city. Akhtar said, “The linear form also allows a spinal public route for transportation that is difficult in a circular city like Delhi as it has multiple and longer routes that makes it a compulsion for many to increasingly use private transport, leading to more air pollution.” A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Womenâ€™s initiative transforms this Delhi slum 20 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Can the helpless conditions of Delhi’s slums be changed for the better? Manvi Singh does a reality check. “There is nothing I can change now, even if my parents accept the fact that it was their biggest mistake to leave our village and move to Delhi,” says Raj Kumar, a driver. Kumar lives in a slum near Block 18, Kalyanpuri, in east Delhi. He is one of the many who add to the staggering 49 per cent population of Delhi living in unauthorised colonies and slums. He says it is now futile to keep blaming his parents for his and his family’s misfortune. “He was hardly four years old,” whispered an old woman, when she saw Kumar struggle to recall the age when his parents brought him from Arariya, Bihar. “I have been to my home town thrice and I remember begging my parents not to return to Delhi,” he said. Kumar reminisced about his childhood and the days he spent in his village. He was repulsed seeing the sorry state of the slum he was brought to by his parents. His helplessness was clearly visible as Kumar stared at the narrow footpath and then at the open drain, almost as wide, which ran parallel. “I am helpless,” he sobbed. “I had always wished not to have kids till I am capable of providing them with clean and prosperous living conditions. But look at me now, I have two kids; a boy and a girl. The filth is just one of my worries, what fears me the most are the people ; their habits and influence. Due to our work, it is impossible for my wife and me to keep an eye on the kids always. I fear that my kids might be coaxed into doing something wrong. “If my kids end up on the wrong path, our purpose of earning will be defeated .” Kumar said, subtly pointing out to the cluster of teenagers sitting hardly hundred meters away, smoking weed and cigarettes. His agitation was evident. Even though substance abuse is not limited to children and adolescents of any particular social group, “it is only fair to assume that street children, being one of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups, would be at a considerably higher risk,” states a 2016 research paper by Vidhi Centre For Legal Policy that studied drug abuse among street children in Delhi. “More than the unhygienic surroundings, the squalid mentality of such teenagers makes the slum a contemptible place to live in,” said Sheela, who sat nearby packing small toys. Most of the women in the slum earned money by packing small plastic toys brought from some factory in Ghazipur. Women : Kalyanpuri’s silver lining Imagine a slum, what comes to mind? Probably an unclean, unhygienic and congested inhabitation of people belonging to the lower economic stratas of the society . Although, Kumar’s slum had a Gordian knot: the misguided teens. However, not everything at Kalyanpuri was as dreadful. The women in the slum were the first ones to take an initiative. They have tried to change all that they could. The municipality and other authorities might not be as involved as the women of the slum in attaining the goal of ’Swachh Bharat’.
A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Raj Kumar (right) a resident of a slum in Block 18 Kalyanpuri, New Delhi, worrying about his son’s (left) future. Photo by MANVI SINGH “It doesn’t matter if we cannot build toilets in our homes due to lack of space, we still have community toilets,” said Sheela Devi. She was more than happy to speak about the work she had done along with other ladies. “We worry so much about our kids and try to keep them away from wrong people but why don’t we care about our unclean surrounding which can cause diseases and equally devastate their future,” said Sheela. “It is in our hands to keep our surroundings clean and get everyone to use toilets,” said another lady. “We had no toilets till about five years ago. We realised its need and asked the Delhi Urban Slum Improvement Board (DUSIB) to build one for us,” said Kumar. According to estimates by DUSIB, there are only 79,000 toilets across 675 slums in the capital, home to over 15 lakh people. The community toilet provided to us was paid till about a few months ago,” said Sheela who seemed annoyed by government’s stance on open defecation. “On one hand the government promotes the usage of toilets, while on the other hand charges a fees from poor people like us to use them.” Enraged by the government’s attitude, Sheela and other women of the slum decided to revolt. As part of the Clean India Mission the government was stressing on an ‘Open Defecation Free’ India by 2019. 22 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
The women of the slum with all their efforts were successful in convincing the DUSIB to make the community toilets in their slums free of cost. Sheela proudly stated that her family did not defecate in the open even when they had to pay a fee to use the community toilet was payable. The women in Kalyanpuri have managed to overcome many issues by voicing their problems in unison. Clearly, this is the right way to get public utilities and conveniences even though they are living in a slum.
Amanat who works as a maid in a residential colony near Block 18 Kalyanpuri. Photo by MANVI SINGH A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Finally, manual scavengers get a better life
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Bindeshwar Pathak offered manual scavengers a way out of their despicable lives by training them to earn a living by doing a more respectable job. BY KRITIKA LALWANI “I got a chance to live two lives in the course of one. The first life was given by God but Bindeshwar Pathak gave me the second life,” says Usha Chaumar, a former manual scavenger and now a President of Sulabh International. In India, manual scavengers, who clean dry latrines, face severe social discrimination as they belong to the lowest strata of society who were known as ‘’untouchables’’. In 1993, India banned the employment of people as manual scavengers. In 2013, Manual Scavengers Act was passed which seeks to reinforce this ban by prohibiting manual scavenging in all forms and ensures the rehabilitation of manual scavengers. Despite progress, manual scavenging persists surreptitiously in India. Usha was also a manual scavenger. Like other manual scavengers, she comes from the family of the Dalits. She used to pick up human excreta from dry latrines. Usha started doing this work from the age of seven. “My mother used to take me with her when she use to go for work so that I could also learn, as later I had to do the same work,” says Usha. Bhagwati Chaumar, another former manual scavenger, said, “When I asked my mother if I can do some other work, she asked me which other job I would like to take up? She told me nobody would buy the clothes we stitch or the food we cook. I had no other option but to take up this job.’’ Usha said, ‘‘It was dirty work, and the smell of the excreta used to drive me mad. I used to get headaches most of the time.” She added that one of her colleagues had lost her eyesight because of this work. Sanja Chaumar, a former manual scavenger, said, “Women manual scavengers are more in number as compared to men’’. Usha added that this work is being done in their families for generations. She said that they were humiliated and insulted even by those in whose houses they went to clean dry latrines. They had to clean human excreta with bare hands before sunrise so that nobody could see them or touch them. There was a time when they were made to wear bells around their necks so that on hearing the sound, people could stay away from them. Even while giving them food or water, people would maintain a safe distance from them. The doors of education and religion were closed to them. They were not allowed to enter school or temple. Manual scavengers could not draw water from the wells or ponds, they had to wait for a good Samaritan to arrive at the place to draw water and fill their pitchers. Their pitchers were mainly made of iron to distinguish them from those made of clay used by upper-caste people. Usha said they took up this job of cleaning other people’s toilets, just for the sake of their children. She said they use to get Rs 10 per month from each house till A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
2003. Usha added that no government official or upper-caste people ever told them that manual scavenging is banned in India. Narrating her story of rehabilitation, Usha said, “We all feel really happy that our children would not have to do this work. They are studying and for sure in future, they are living a better life than we lived.” Dating back to 2008, Usha remembers that after doing her work she was relaxing in the open with her colleagues when Bindeshwar Pathak, a sociologist and founder of the NGO Sulabh International, visited them and asked them why do they do this job? Pathak explained to them the ill effects of the job and urged them to give it up. He promised a job through which all of them could earn their livelihoods. Sanja, a former manual scavenger, said, ‘‘It was a tough decision to take and it was harder to convince other family members. But we tried and now we are here living a much better life.’’ Pathak brought all the manual scavengers from Alwar to Sulabh International and taught them the importance of hygiene. Almost 200 women, who previously worked as manual scavengers, have been rehabilitated and trained as beauticians or in food processing, sewing or embroidery. They have also taken up courses in personality development. They run an association called ‘Nai Disha’ in Alwar. Usha says that in Alwar, Pathak has constructed ‘Sulabh magical toilet’, a pour flush ecological toilet with two pits. This toilet does not need scav-
Former manual scavengers (in yellow saree) with Bennett University students at the office of Sulabh International. Photo by VIBHUTI BHARTI 26 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
The blackwater is collected in this pit and allowed to slowly infiltrate the surrounding soil. Photo by KRITIKA LALWANI engers for cleaning the pits or disposal of sludge. This can be done by the householder itself. This toilet is affordable and easy to construct with locally available material. This toilet is free from health hazards and does not pollute surface or groundwater. It produces available rich fertilizers and soil conditioners. This fertilizer can be used in the fields to raise productivity or it can be used for plants, fruits and flowers. Usha says, “I love my job, my life is good and happy. We are loved and respected here. There is also a perceptible change in society’s attitude towards us.” She says many people who treated them as untouchables earlier are now our regular customers. they buy papad from us. They get the parlour work done from us. Some months ago, we visited Paris, where we met several stars. Recently, a person from a different caste invited Usha to his daughter’s wedding. The same person accepted a gift from her and allowed her to dine with his family members. In the words of Pathak, ‘‘The problem of untouchables is as much economic as it is sociocultural. Tradition takes time to change and requires the will and initiative of all sections of society. Skill development is crucial for someone who is illiterate and from the oppressed class. By giving them an alternaivte livelihood, they are liberated from an inhumane job. Their dignity is restored and they are gradually accepted by society.” A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
After pink autos, come pink toilets for Delhi women
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The Delhi government has taken a unique step by introducing pink toilets for women emphasizing cleanliness and hygiene in public toilets. BY PARKHI RAWAT
Public toilets always conjure up images of dirty, unsanitary conditions, which is a turn-off for many women. But what if these toilets were clean, had good amenities with sanitary pad dispensers, changing tables for babies and more? Perhaps, more women would be inclined to use them. Pink toilet at Vikaspuri The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) was the first to open a ‘pink’ toilet in Vikaspuri and in 22 other locations around the city. “These pink toilets have been installed at those places which witness substantial footfall,” said S. Radhakrishnan, PR head, SDMC. This pink toilet in Vikaspuri for women is free and has two women caretakers who have the responsibility of maintaining hygiene in it. “We work hard to keep this toilet clean. Sometimes women users are badly behaved and make a mess in the toilet. They should also cooperate with us,” said Rama Devi, caretaker of the Vikaspuri toilet. The users pay for the sanitary napkins, which cost between ₹1 and ₹10. These toilets are open from 7 am to 10 pm every day. “There are many facilities in these toilets like hand wash and other types of chemicals which are not available in normal public toilets,” said Babita, another caretaker. Features of Pink Toilets Pink Toilets are supposed to have the following: ● Clean washrooms with both Indian and Western toilets ● Children- and disabled-friendly ● A seating area outside the toilet for women to rest ● Sanitary napkin vending machines ● Incinerators to burn the used sanitary waste “We don’t have a toilet in our office, so I always come here. It’s free and clean here, that’s the most amazing thing,” said Apporva, a user at the Vikaspuri toilet. Another user, Debomitra Das, said she found the toilet very clean considering that it is a public one. “I am impressed by te hygiene in the Pink Toilet,” she said. Not everything is hunky-dory However, not everything that SDMC claimed that these toilets would have, were available. • The toilets were supposed to be open 24x7, but they are open only from 7 am to 10 pm. There are no low-height toilets and wash basins for children. • There is no resting area or seating available. • There was no Indian-style washroom available, only Western-style washroom was there. Learning from Pink Auto experience Delhi introduced the concept of ‘Pink Autos’ as a safe mode of transport for women in the city, taking the cue from the Odisha government which introduced the first-ever pink autorickshaw service for women. These autos had GPS trackA SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Pink auto standing at Noida City Centre metro station. Photo by DEBOMITRA DAS ers and were equipped with SOS buttons. The drivers were certified. And what’s more, in some areas, there were even separate lanes for the pink autorickshaw. “We get only 5-6 customers a day,’ explained Sohom, a Pink Auto driver. He also felt the app-based cab travel ran this business to ground. “The availability of these pink autos has decreased now. We also lost customers once app-based cab services became popular.” But the service did not go down well with the users as well. “It felt suffocating to ride in these pink autos,’’ said Arti, resident of Noida. Despite incidents of rape in Uber and Ola cabs, women feel safer in cabs and prefer to use them. “Cabs have better facilities than pink autos. Cabs are safer,’’ said Soumya, a resident of Noida. 30 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Pink Toilets doing better than Pink Autos Saftey is not an issue in the Pink Toilets. The toilets have two cleaners present all the time. Women can use them without feeling any threat to their security. Many women are still unaware of such facilities and so they need to be advertised well. MCD is planning to increase the number of Pink Toilets in the city by opening them in other areas too. “We will invite applications from people wanting to open such facilities in their area. This will go a long way in instilling a sense of security among women and girls using public toilets,” Radhakrishnan said. If the facilities at these Pink Toilets continue to be of high standards, they will be used by many more women and won’t end up facing the fate of Pink Autos.
Beautified exteriors of the Pink Toilet. Photo by PARKHI RAWAT A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Building toilets may reduce crimes against women 32 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Building toilets for women can prevent them from going to the fields and keep them safe. Triya Gulati visited a village in Mewat district and found that women were happy to have toilets in their homes while slums dwellers in Lucknow were unhappy without toilets. Crimes against women and girls have increased over the years, and one of the major reasons is lack of toilets forcing them to defecate in the open. For more than 1 billion women and girls around the world, those fears are real. They don’t feel safe going to the bathroom, according to Water Aid, an international non-profit group that promotes clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. Some 70 per cent of households in India don’t have access to toilets, whether in rural areas or urban slums. Roughly 60 per cent of the country’s 1.2 billion people still defecate in the open as reported in National Geographic and the consequences for women are huge. The report by Water Aid, titled Out Of Order: The State of the World’s Toilets 2017, stated that 355 million women and girls lack access to a proper toilet. The Swachh Bharat Mission launched in 2014 increased the country’s sanitation coverage from 39 per cent to 65 per cent by November, 2017. In this period, 52 million toilets were built in rural India. In 2014, the two Dalit girls in Badaun who were allegedly gang-raped caused outrage, anger and for the first time and raised the issue of lack of toilets. The two girls had gone out to the fields to defecate when they were grabbed and then allegedly gang-raped by the men. But perhaps, the deaths could have been avoided if the girls had access to a toilet at home. On the night they were killed, the two teens did what millions of women do across India each day; they set out for an open field to relieve themselves. After this case, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to make India, open defecation free by October 2, 2019. Around 52 million toilets were constructed across India under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan but whether the issue has been addressed is a million-dollar question. What women of Lucknow say on toilets Jyoti, a resident of a slum in LDA colony, Kanpur Road behind Phoenix Mall, Lucknow says that they don’t have a toilet therefore they go out in the field to defecate, they feel quite embarrassed but they don’t have any other option. They don’t even have their own land on which to build toilets. On Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, she said, “We don’t know about any such scheme and no one government official has ever come to look into this problem.” “If we have an area to live, only then can we construct a toilet. We don’t have money for food, how can we construct toilets,” said Sunita, another resident of the slum. She said children defecate in the open and therefore get affected by diseases. Hardship faced by women on daily basis Describing women’s daily hardships due to lack of toilets, she said that it was quite awkward in the beginning to take bath in the open but now it has become a habit. Sunita said, “Although we are clad in some clothes while bathing, passersby glare at us but we are helpless. Whenever our daughters need to go to defecate, their fathers go with them for their security. She further added that they never go A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
out alone to defecate, but always in groups of two or three. The government can do nothing to protect us, therefore we do it ourselves.” “So many times we have complained in the CM office, but all we get are dates. Dates come and go, but no one comes here for checking. Now we are are resigned to living in such conditions,” said another resident. During the visit to the slum, thius reporter saw children urinating in a corner near to a shanty. Also a woman who was helping her 9-year old girl take a bath in the open, the girl was just wearing underwear. People were passing by, including young boys, men and women. Over the years, women have become vulnerable to crimes due to lack of toilets. The government is building toilets but certain steps should be taken by individuals for construction of toilets so that no woman or girl gets raped or sexually assaulted. Initiative by Sulabh International Sulabh International Social Service Organization, a non-profit voluntary social organization founded in 1970 by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, is dedicated to construction of environmental-friendly two-pit, pour-flush compost toilet known as Sulabh Shauchalaya that is socially acceptable, economically affordable, technologically appropriate and does not require scavengers to clean the pits and implemented in more than 1.2 million houses all over India that has helped liberate over a million scavengers. So far, it has constructed and over 8,000 such public toilets in India. Talking to the people working for Sulabh, we got to know that two excuses which were most common among people for not constructing toilets were either, ‘the construction cost is high and we cannot afford it’ or ‘they don’t like to defecate in a closed place, they like fresh air’. Sulabh International has solution for both, tackling the first problem, Pathak came up with ideas like:
Eco-friendly two-pit, pour-flush compost toilet at Sulabh International office. Photo by LALIT DHAWAN 34 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Sulabh Shauchalaya office in Marora, Mewat district, where toilets have been constructed in every home. Picture by LALIT DHAWAN Eco-friendly Two-pit, pour-flush compost toilet: The working model of this toilet is very simple. Two pit holes are created around the toilet, one of which is functional while the other is kept closed until the opened pit is fully filled with human waste. The filled pit is then closed for composting, and the waste collected in that pit is converted to bio-fertilizers. What’s great is that the fertilizers made in this way are high in nitrogen and phosphorous, two chemicals that help in better irrigation. Pathak installed these toilets in individual households as an alternative to the comparatively extensive sewerage septic tank-based systems. The UN has also recommended this toilet technology as a Best Global Practice. And the solution to the second problem was roof-free toilets, wherein one can defecate within four walls and at the same time enjoy the cool breeze and gaze at the stars. ODF village in Mewat district Marora, a village in Mewat, where Sulabh has constructed toilets is a perfect example of their work from which women have benefited a lot. In a conversation with the women of Marora, they told us about the problems they used to face but the toilets which have been constructed by Sulabh have put an end to all that. Not just the village became ODF but also hygiene-conscious. Women have started using sanitary pads and also dispose of them in a machine provided by Sulabh. Apart from this, women should also raise voice in their house for construction of toilets in their house, slums and offices. Accepting and settling with the norms of people is not a solution, ‘RAISE VOICE FOR CONSTRUCTION OF TOILETS’ if not for you then for posterity. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Life in Ghazipur BY ADITI GIRI
A visit to Ghazipur slum gave first-hand knowledge of the problems concerning waste segregation. It’s painful to see people struggling to make a living. The slums were in a squalid condition and the entire environment was a breeding ground for flies and mosquitoes. When asked about the maintenance and the cleanliness of the place, the residents living there simply blamed the municipality.
Amidst all the difficulties, life goes on.
There’s sewage accumulated at places throughout the slum. Residents say that the drains haven’t been cleaned for the past three months. 36 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
The innocence of the child does not reveal what she is missing in her life! A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
This elderly man has been a resident of this area for ages. He also gave us a lot of information about the conditions in the slum.
Many innocent smiles staring at the lens, when asked to pose in front of the camera.
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This little one should have been playing with cars and other toys, while he is seen playing with a beer bottle. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Birds preying on these mountains of garbage. The waste has been dumped in the area for ages, and has been a breeding ground for various disease-causing vectors.
Heaps of cartons lying in front of the Metro wall. They are processed once in a month. 40 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
The pensive boy wonders about the fate of his life at this slum.
This kid is seen playing with the drain water unaware about the health hazards.
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This girl is hardly aware of the dangers around her. 42 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Heaps of waste lying in the hope of being segregated.
This street is badly in need of attention from civic authoritiess.
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Can we have an Open Defecation Free society?
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It is possible to change habits and make people ‘do their business’ in toilets rather than open fields. Lakshay Kumar finds a village in Haryana, Marora, that has shown the way. A toilet can either be defined as a piece of hardware used for the collection or disposal of human urine and faeces, or it can be called “The architectural space in which bodies are Replenished, Inspected, and Cultivated, and where one is left alone for Private Reflection - to develop and affirm identity.” While the former is the dictionary definition of a toilet, the latter is what was written in a catalogue assembled for Venice Biennale, 2014 (a contemporary visual art exhibition) to accompany an exhibition on architectural elements, written by Slovenia philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Origins of the ‘throne’ The earliest origins of a human toilet were found in Scotland around 2500 BC. While the flush toilets weren’t invented till 1596, these Scottish toilets were the first example of toilet in which flowing water was used to remove the waste. The “Modern Toilet” wasn’t popularised until midway through the 19th century. Till then, humans used various “surrogate” forms of toilets like pits and holes in the ground, communal outhouses, etc. to “do their business”. These surrogate forms of excretion can be termed as Open Defecation, as pits weren’t always covered and the waste disposal system at the time wasn’t the most efficient. Since the popularisation of the flush toilet, the practice of Open Defecation started dropping throughout the world. World Health Organisation partnered with UNICEF to formulate the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. In the year 2000, the average population of the world practising open defecation was 20.49 percent, of which India had an average of 66 per cent, which was more than neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Open defecation can cause problems like diarrhoea, intestinal worms, even polio. Why Swachh Bharat Mission was launched Something had to be done to deal with the problem. Launched in 2014 on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) (SBM-G) aims to accelerate efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage, improve cleanliness and eliminate open defecation in India by 2nd October 2019. The Mission is centred on behavioural change and community participation, with the aim of making Sanitation, “everyone’s business”. Now in 2018, with just one year away from the endpoint of this ambitious goal, where do we stand? Use them, after you build them! While the aim has remained same all these years, it is the way of communication that has changed. In the initial years of the Mission, the emphasis was on the construction of toilets. Construction of Individual Household Latrines (IHHLs) has been booming. Data from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation shows that approximately 12.5 lakh IHHLs were constructed in the year 2015-16 alone. The same year’s data however, shows that the total sanitation coverage in the country was only 57.74 percent. The message now has changed, with government A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
and agencies promoting the actual use of these toilets instead of just constructing them. The change in communication can only be warranted if toilets are available for every single person in the country. A simple question to ask is, “Can the current number of toilets provide service to everyone in the country?” If the answer is, “Yes”, only then should the message be changed and emphasis should be given on the usage of toilets. However, there are places where there still are no toilets available. The 2015 estimates of the JMP for Water Supply and Sanitation showed that India still had about 40 per cent of its population practising Open Defecation. Compared to that, Nepal still had 30 per cent, Pakistan had 12 per cent and Bangladesh had 0 percent! The SBM-G data shows that since 2nd October, 2014, a total of 678.39 lakh toilets have been built. Data shows that according to the latest entry, the balance of uncovered households is a bit over 3 crores. While the national average sits at 81.1 percent for the year 2017-18, states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Puducherry and Jammu & Kashmir are still in the yellow zone of sanitation coverage, i.e. between 40-70 percent. After all these years of toilets, why are people still defecating in the open? There are thousands of people in the country who still believe that using a toilet is a western practice. “Going out in the open” has been the Indian way for centuries and it’s what has been taught to them by their parents. Open Defecation has become a way of life for many people. To tackle this mindset, the SBM-Gramin was started with a focus on behavioural change. Changing this mindset has been of utmost importance and the emergence of organisations like Sulabh International has been a welcome move in the country. Sulabh International is a non-profit voluntary social organisation founded in 1970. The organisation has not only been working for the removal of untouchability and social discrimination against manual scavengers, it is also constructing low cost environmental friendly two-pit, pour-flush compost toilet known as “Sulabh Shauchalaya”. These toilets are socially acceptable, economically affordable, and technologically appropriate. Construction and maintenance of public toilets at public places and in slums on ‘Pay & use basis’ is a landmark of Sulabh in the field of sanitation. So far it has constructed and is maintaining over 8000 such public toilets in India. One village shows the way A Sulabh case study is the village Marora in Mewat, Haryana. One thing that this village has in common with the current US President is the name: the village has been renamed “Trump gaon” by Sulabh International to highlight its project to turn the village fully ODF, i.e. give it 100 percent toilet coverage. Obviously, the construction of toilets alone won’t do much good as people would still be reluctant in using them. Sulabh International has brilliantly tackled this problem as well. They go to villages and conduct initial awareness training sessions for the residents. This training is for the people to get used to the concept of a toilet and to get to know its workings. 46 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Rate chart of toilet structures built by Sulabh International Photograph by LAKSHAY KUMAR In a bid to provide the utmost comfort to the users, Sulabh has gone a step further and created variations of the already economically affordable toilets. For the people who feel congested in the tiny confines of the walls, Sulabh actually has a structure that is open from the top for people to breathe in the fresh air or gaze at the sky while going about their ‘business.’ This structure kills two birds with one stone as it not only deals with the claustrophopia of people, but also creates an illusion of “open defecation” and is helpful in weaning them away from “family tradition”. Changing the mindset Venkaiah Naidu, the then Union Minister for Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation, in 2016 called for a three-pronged approach to achieve the ambitious feat of making the entire country open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019. “There must be a change in the mindset. This must be followed by necessary infrastructure in the form of toilets and then there should be legislation proposing fine for non-compliance,” he said. Sulabh is doing two out of the three things– making an effort to change the mindset of people and constructing the necessary infrastructure. Maybe it is now time for the government to take a step and tackle the third prong as well. A change in the laws would be more than welcome and a “necessary infrastructure” in the legal environment of the country. It could lead us to actually achieve our goal of being a completely ODF country by 2019. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
E-waste: A major concern for the modern world
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Development of technology has tangled our future in wires. Improper treatment of e-waste is hazardous to the environment and unless properly disposed of, it could lead to dangerous consequences. BY RIDDHI DWIVEDI
We are all so fond of our gadgets that our lives seem impossible without them. Despite the news of cell phones causing brain tumors doing rounds, we start our days by checking our mobile phones. But what happens when the gadgets we love so much stop working? Are we all aware of the fact that improper disposal of e-waste is dangerous for the environment? E-waste is different from normal waste People generally tend to throw e-waste along with the normal waste. “Well, generally we throw the electronic waste along with the normal waste except for the expensive products like a laptop etc,” says Kiran Shobha, a resident of Panchsheel Wellington Society, Noida. All the waste then travels to the local landfill, where it is compacted, smashed and sometimes burned until every component including heavy metals leach into the air, ground, and water, killing the environment. According to a technology website, Gizmodo, cell phones and electronic products use metals like copper, lead, nickel, antimony, zinc, and coltan among others. Some of these materials are part of the finished item while others are used heavily in their production process and remain onboard afterwards. And how can we forget to mention the glue that holds everything on the inside together. Also, they all consist of plastic shells, which alone is the greatest threat to the environment, Gizmodo says. A global hazard Improper treatment of e-waste not only affects the environment but also the human life adversely. According to researchers the air, that workers in e-waste dumps breath in constantly, cause inflammation and stress that can lead to heart diseases, DNA damage and even cancer. There’s a book named CTRL-X: A Topography of E-Waste here by a German author-photographer, Kai Löffelbein where he documented what happens to old phones, laptops, and other gadgets in dumps and workshops in India, Ghana, and China. As mentioned in the book, he visited a district in India dedicated to electronic waste near Delhi, where the workers dismantle and burn old products to extract materials to sell. Whatever is left is dumped into drains, and pollutants like lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium leach into soil and drinking water contaminating the environment. India is one of the largest producers of e-waste in the world, which is definitely something to worry about, according to the Center for Science and Environment. The government has now formulated several laws regulating how waste should be collected and processed. The law has now created a pressure on manufacturers and producers of electronic equipment (EEE) as earlier they were having a free ride in the absence of stringent regulatory framework. They are now responsible for the collection of the e-waste generated during the manufacture of any EEE and channelising it for recycling or disposal. Nowadays, some companies started using hidden trackers to watch where electronic waste goes. According to the rules laid by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, it is A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
E-waste found in every household. Photo by RIDDHI DWIVEDI now mandatory for manufacturers to maintain records of the e-waste generated, handled and disposed and make such records available for scrutiny by the State Pollution Control Boards. It is also true that it is difficult for individual producers to fulfill all the parameters prescribed in the legislation, but they can do it easily as a collective organization. E-waste hazard: The impending challenge India can take a cue from Norway which has ‘e-waste take back’ system in place for more than a decade, according to CSE. It is a remarkable example of excellent coordination between manufacturers and the government. According to CSE website, the authorities in Norway were finding it extremely difficult to enforce and follow up so many entities producing and importing electronics in the country. Then they came up with the idea of EPR which resulted in e-waste regulation. The Ministry of Environment in Norway signed an agreement to set up take back companies with the producers and importers of electronic waste. It was a voluntary agreement and was later followed by an e-waste regulation. Like the rules and laws in India, management of e-waste in Norway is also a producer responsibility and producers are defined as Norwegian manufacturers and importers of EEE. According to reports the material recovery rate of collected e-waste in Norway was an astounding 82 per cent in 2012, and the energy recovery (waste to energy) rate was about 13 per cent. Only about five per cent of e-waste was reported to be land-filled in 2012. More than 143,790 tonnes of e-waste was collected in Norway in 2012 which reached to 146,018 tonnes in 2013. The process, however, needs to be tweaked according to Indian requirements but nonetheless it is an extremely important exercise to increase e-waste management. Proper disposal is the need of the hour At individual level the only way to prevent the damage caused by careless disposal of e-waste is through recycling and proper utilization of all its components. “We give our e waste to our local electrician. We are aware of the harmful effects it has on the environment,” said Tarun Sharma, a resident of Golden Avenue society, Noida. There are several agencies which collect e-waste and recycle its 50 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
The smile belies the hopelessness of her surroundings. Photo by MANVI SINGH parts. You can give or sell your e-waste to a local mechanic or an electrician as well. These agencies reuse as much as they can and ensure complete personal data destruction. They recycle and reuse e-waste so as to minimize the dangers it causes to the environment, for example, Namo eWaste, SIMS Recycling Solutions India Private Limited etc. The more we advance the more essential it becomes for us to come up with the solutions to minimise environmental degradation and contamination due to the e-waste. After all sustainable development is all we need! A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Segregating waste can be a boon for cities
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With a focus on segregating waste and recycling, Alappuzha and Panaji have reduced waste generation. BY SAKSHI GARG
The rapid growth in the population is always supplemented with increasing demands and every day in India, 3,800 children die after drinking dirty water, according to UNICEF. Eighty per cent of these children suffer from pollution-induced diseases. “The citizens, children, tourists, economy, developmenteverything is affected by the massive amount of waste on our streets and polluting the waterways,” says a Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) spokesperson. It’s not just about how it looks, but this untreated and mismanaged waste is harmful to our health. According to the Planning Commission of India, the country produces 62 million tonnes of waste annually. Out of which, 43 million tonnes is solid waste and only 11.9 million tonnes is treated while the left is dumped in the landfills untreated. Cities do not have the space to dispose the wastes. And with growing population, the waste generated by cities is expected to rise by five per cent every year, according to CSE. According to the survey, Alappuzha and Panaji are the India’s top four clean cities because they give priority to segregation of waste at household level, and its reuse. This survey highlights the cities in India who are managing waste very well and what can the other countries learn from their cases. ALAPPUZHA Alappuzha is a city in Kerala famous for its backwaters and beaches. The city produced 58 tonnes of solid waste everyday. As reported by CSE, the waste was dumped in a six-hectare plot in Sarvodaya Puram village. This caused pollution, contamination of water resources and spreading of diseases like chikungunya and dengue. What happened? In June 2012, residents of Sarvodaya Puram protested, went on hunger strikes and blocked the roads for 100 days. This led to closing the dumpyard. Thomas Isaac, member of Kerala Legislative Assembly from Alappuzha decided to try decentralised waste management. Big push towards compost and biogas Alappuzha municipality has 52 wards. The ‘Clean Home Clean City’ programmes started with 12 most urbanised wards covering 12000 households, as a pilot project. Household and localised composting setups were promoted along with individual biogas plants. At present, 3500 households using biogas plants and 6000 families using pipe composting. The households without these setups put their waste to 15 composting shreds with 165 bins for community composting. “Although the focus of the initiative is households, it has also set up daily pickup segregated waste from commercial places like hotels and restaurants,” said the A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
The waste dealer segregates the waste into different categories and sells it. Photo by NANDINI BISHNOI 54 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
CSE spokesperson. The collected wet waste is taken to piggeries and fish farms of the city. Meanwhile, the dry waste is taken to a godown and sent to recycling facilities in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Outcome “The city now has strong segregation system, decentralised composting set-up and zero landfill model. The system has helped Alappuzha to be recognised by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as one of the top five models across the world in fighting the pollution menace,” said the CSE official. PANAJI Panaji is a city in Goa famous for its beaches and Dona Paula, meeting point of two rivers, Zauri and Mandovi. The city produces 55 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste every day out of which 20 metric tonnes is wet waste. The City Corporation of Panaji (CCP) manages the solid waste in the city. Weak infrastructure With the rapid increase population, urbanization and industrialisation the problem of waste management also increased. Inadequate collection, unmanaged disposal of industrial, commercial and domestic waste was presenting problems for human health and existing environment. Panaji City was plagued with inefficient and insufficient civil amenities. Campaign rolls out In early 2003, a comprehensive city revitalisation campaign was launched. The city was divided into 12 waste management zones, each under a supervisor who manages the collection and transportation of waste. CCP put in place a five way segregation system that differentiates between wet and dry waste. And sub-segregates the dry waste according to its recyclability. As reported by CSE, dry waste is segregated into four categories: Plastics, paper and cardboard, glass and metals, non-recyclable materials (leather, ceramic, etc). There are 70 decentralised composting centres for residential wet waste. About 20 tonnes of wet waste from hotels, eateries and marketplace is sent to composting plant outside the city. The marketplace has its own localised composting unit that takes in about four tonnes of wet waste from food vendors. Based on Sunita Narain’s book, ‘Not In My Backyard’, dry waste from residentials, hotels, eateries and marketplace is taken to a central sorting facility where it is segregated into 30 categories. The segregated dry waste is then sent to neighbouring state for recycling. Outcome The city has now a five point segregation method, decentralised composting system and a zero landfill model. “The city has now become bin-free and carries out waste management at three levels- collection and segregation, transportation and intermediate storage,” said the CSE official.
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How a Delhi society cleaned up its act 56 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
The way Sunder Vihar in Delhi fought all odds to make waste segregation an easy process could be an inspiration for others to adapt the process and make their society cleaner and greener. BY DAKSH GOGIA
Sunder Vihar, a residential society in Delhi-NCR, is doing its best to reduce waste generation and establish proper waste management system on its premises. Even though it is a DDA- approved residential society, initially it was not provided facility for waste management. This used to cause multiple problems to the residents. The residentsâ€™ patience and the MCDâ€™s negligence only led to the worsening of the situation. In course of time, Sunder Vihar hired a few sweepers to collect the garbage in their baskets from every home and dump it in an empty yard away from the society. That dumping ground posed a problem for passersby who complained of a stench. The cause of the foul odour problem arose because of no arrangement for garbage treatment and disposal after dumping it in the dump yard. People complained against the society to the MCD office and police station as being responsible for the foul odour which in turn led to spread of diseases and different kinds of infections to a lot of residential societies located near that waste yard. Though a lot of other societies too used to dump garbage. In the same spot, the entire blame came upon this society. MCD officials fined the society and asked them to pay the fine immediately. Along with the fine, a notice was issued which restricted the society from dumping waste in the yard. The society then took a stand and sent few members to discuss their problem with MCD officials. After a lot of persuasion, the MCD finally took back the notice and granted the society permission to dump waste in the yard on the only condition i.e to cover whole of the yard. A fund was raised by the collective efforts of the societyâ€™s residents which was used in building a huge covered area where waste could be dumped without causing harm to anyone. Though some people were hesitant to contribute their share to the funds initially but contributed to the cause later when they saw the progress. Then the MCD was approached to help in the process of emptying the dustbins on a regular basis.
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A tale of two slums 58 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Destiny is cruel to many but some are unable to change it while others are able to change it for the better with the help of the community where they live Hanifa and Suman are two teenagers who live in two separate localities with similar circumstances but one of them is left with no choice but to accept her harsh reality while the other is leading a better life because her community opted for change. BY AANCHAL SINGLA
Hanifa, the 18-year-old daughter of a rag-picker, who started rag-picking with her mother at the age of seven, lives in a slum in Ghazipur village in East Delhi. The living conditions of the residents is miserable and most of the people living there are either rag-pickers or are jobless. Every day, early in the morning, Hanifa must rush to the plot across the road from the slum to defecate. One day she saw several boys coming towards the plot while she was doing her job and ran for her life. Hanifa’s sister, Shabana, was down with an infection because of open defecation. It’s not just Hanifa and Shabana, but all the residents of the slum practise open defecation. Every day someone or the other falls sick, many woman face sexual harassment, but the slum dwellers still don’t take the initiative to build toilets in the slum. Speaking about the problems she faces daily, Hanifa said, “We have to wait for the water and when the water starts coming from the taps, we have to rush to store it.” She alleged that the problem is compounded by the fact that the water that they get is mixed with sewage water. The roads in the village are extremely dirty, with filth and garbage strewn around. The sewage is all blocked with the gutter’s filth floating on the road. Heena, a resident of the Ghazipur slum, said, “We clean our houses, and throw the garbage outside. We don’t have garbage bins here, and MCD people also don’t visit this place generally. So, everyone has been dumping garbage on the streets and open plots from the beginning. We are used to it.” Once the gutters are cleaned by the corporation, the polythene bags and other garbage dumped by the residents again blocks the gutters. When being asked about the garbage, foul smell and the appalling conditions they are living in, Hanifa said, “I am born in this locality. I have been living in these conditions since birth. I am used to it. Even if I want to change it, I cannot do anything by myself. Moreover, I am just a rag-picker”. In contrast, there is Suman, who also lives in a slum, has neighbours who have found the way out. Suman, a 17-year-old resident of a slum in Kalyanpuri in East Delhi, works as a trainee in a beauty parlour. Every male resident of the Kalyanpuri slum is employed and earns anywhere from Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 a month and many women residents are also employed. The people live a far more hygienic and healthier life than in the Ghazipur slum. The residents are aware of the consequences of open defecation. Hence, they got three community toilets built in their slum. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Who is going to live here for long? That is the real question. Photo by DAKSH GOGIA 60 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Kalyanpuri Slum: one of the cleanest slums in Delhi. Photo by MANVI SINGH MCD workers allegedly neglect this slum as well. But the residents here collect the garbage, segregate it and wait for the MCD people to come. People here do not throw the garbage around. The streets are clean and no empty plots are dumped with garbage. The women in the Kalyanpuri slum play a major role in keeping the slum clean. They go around pursuading neighbours quite passionately to keep the drains clean. They also ask them to use community toilets in lieu of open defecation. These women are aware of their rights. They have told the DUSIB (Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board) to renovate houses. They want the wall height to be increased. The basic reasons for this huge gap in the conditions of the Ghazipur and Kalyanpuri slums are employment and awareness. All the male residents and some female residents of the Kalyanpuri slum are employed and earn at least Rs 8,000 a month. In Ghazipur, some residents are rag-pickers while the rest are jobless. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
A day at Marora village
Students of Bennett University, spent a day at Marora village in Mewat, Haryana for a relaity check after the village was declared open defecation free, after Sulabh International built toilets in every home in the village. BY MANSI JAIN
Despite poor living conditions, this boy is all smiles 62 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Backward mindset prevents girls from enjoying their childhood in this area
These children have no spaces to play in A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Sanitation conditions in Marora hasve improved after Sulabhâ€™s intervention 64 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Innocent eyes are filled with big dreams A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Women in Marora village work hard and live a tough life 66 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Elder sister is concerned about her brotherâ€™s health A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
‘Will we get a chance to lead hygienic lives?’ 68 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
People struggling for survival may not be in a position to choose the right attitude towards hygiene despite awareness. They appear to have adapted to a life amid filth. BY TANVI MISHRA
Even as the Union government is promising to make the country open defecation free by the year 2019, there are villages where people are still deprived of basic sanitation facilities and lack of awareness about maintaining hygiene. It is anybody’s guess whether these people’s attitude to hygiene is bad or if they are resigned to a life which places survival above all else including cleanliness. Mamta lives in a small village called Mangalia Kakar on the outskirts of Indore. She is waiting for the day when government officials will visit their house again and finally construct a toilet. Under an initiative by the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) to make Indore open defecation free, more than 13,000 toilets have been constructed in 128 ‘open defecation’ spots in the city. However, one such spot, Mangalia Kakar, is still missing from the IMC’s plans. Mamta has been living in the village for nearly 30 years and has only seen officials dropping in to check the sanitation facilities. The appalling conditions of the village residents remained the same. Every morning before sunrise, the women in Mamta’s family go to a field nearby for their morning ablutions. While they got used to the risks they run in the predawn darkness, their real struggle begins during the day, when they need to use a toilet and there is none. Meera, Mamta’s sister-in-law, said, “We try our best to avoid defecating in those moments.” “Our systems have adapted to the morning schedule because we have been practising it since childhood,” said Meera. “Often the women work in pain because they can’t attend to nature’s callat will. The kids and woman suffer stomach aches,” Mamta said. The women said in unison that their lives are the hardest during their monthly cycles. Deprived of toilets and proper sanitary conditions, they have suffered fungal infections which has had a life-threatening impact on their bodies. Of Mamta’s three children, two go to school and one is an infant. Pinky, the eldest daughter, who is in Grade 1, said, “I use the school toilet before returning home after school.” She also said that she is told by her teacher to wash her hands before and after meals to keeps germs at bay. Mamta admitted that all family members took the cue from Pinky and got into the habit of washing their hands whenever they can. “There is a water crisis in Mangalia Kakar as there is only one hand pump a few kilometres away from our house. On days when there is acute shortage we save the water for the bare necessities,” Mamta said.
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Mamta said, “I am aware of good hygiene practices but the circumstances that we live in makes it hard for us to maintain a healthy life.” In contrast, Marora, a village in Mewat district in Haryana, has a different story to tell. Shazia, Shehnaz, Zainab and Faiza (names changed to protect their identity) said they were very particular about their and their family members’ cleanliness. Every house in the village has a toilet built by Sulabh International, an organisation aiming to provide sanitation, build toilets and rehabilitate manual scavengers. Sulabh has constructed 1.2 million functional toilets across India. The women of Marora were used to open defecation before sunrise till some months ago. Then the toilets were set up by Sulabh and the lives of all residents in general and the women in particular have changed radically. Earlier even talk-
People of Mangalia Kakar live with their cattle and poultry under the same roof. Photo by TANVI MISHRA 70 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Kids have no recreational spaces in the village. Photo by TANVI MISHRA ing about menstruation was taboo, but now Shazia, Zainab and Faiza proudly admitted that they used sanitary pads during their monthly cycles. Only Shehnaz, however, said, â€œI still use a piece of cloth during menses.â€? During the week, they stay in a secluded room and refrain from visiting the mosque, entering the kitchen and meeting male members of the house. In both the Indore and the Haryana villages, there was lack of awareness about menstrual hygiene. But with the installation of toilets in Marora, the women appeared set for a change in their attitude towards their personal hygiene.
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Ash handling: Why it should be taken seriously
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The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) made it mandatory for every Thermal Power Plant (TPP) to have an action plan for 100% ash utilization, but after almost 18 years, only about 60% ash utilization has been achieved. BY WRITAVA BANERJEE
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) made it mandatory for every TPP to have an action plan for 100% ash utilization, but after almost 18 years, only about 60% ash utilization has been achieved. Coal ash is a far greater threat than perceived. India is a coal – powered country. According to the Ministry of Power, coal based TPPs contribute to a total of 58.3% of the total 330,861 MW power generated, This means India uses a lot of coal, and Indian coal has almost 20 – 35% ash content. According to Central Electricity Authority’s December 2017 report, 169.25 Metric Tonnes of ash was generated during 2016-17, but only about 63.28% was utilized. What problems do ash waste create? There’s always a risk of these metals leaching out into soil and water. According to a Earthjustice.org report, coal ash contains many heavy metals like Arsenic and Cadmium. It contains silica, which is a major cause for respiratory diseases in workers who work in dust-prone occupations like mines. Silica deposits cause inflammation in the lungs. It also cause congenital lung diseases if inhaled by the mother. Heavy metals are a rising concern for the environment. Arsenic poisoning has become quite common in some places. Human consumption of these metals leads to various health ailments like respiratory problems and gastrointestinal ailments. Heavy metals are carcinogenic in nature. In excessive amounts they can be fatal. Some metals like mercury and lead cause damage to infants and fetuses. There is no safe exposure level for lead, the report says. Coal Ash can cause severe ecological damage if not disposed properly. Chromium can increase the pH level of water bodies and lands and making it alkaline while cadmium and mercury makes it acidic. The change in pH of soil and water also causes severe damage to the farming sector. The crops get poisoned by the metals and the change in pH affects the overall produce, it says. The Tennessee Ash Spill In 2008, a fly ash dike ruptured in Tennessee, USA caused a leak that spread across 300 acres damaging properties. The Tennessee Valley Authority faced several lawsuits from environment groups and land owners for criminal activities. This is just an example of what might happen after an ash leak. Ways to dispose of ash There are two ways of ash disposal, according to NTPC officials. The first one is wet disposal of ash. Ash is mixed with water and the water is then allowed to evaporate leaving the fly ash. These ponds are artificially made, but often due to improper materials or poor construction, the water with the heavy metals go into A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
the soil and further contaminate the groundwater. The ecological impact of ash ponds has made it less popular. Bottom ash is still given a wet treatment before being sent to the ash dumpsite, officlas said. The other way is dry disposal of ash. The ash is collected in a dumpsite and then further transferred directly for utilization. Compared to the wet method, this is ecologically less heavy as the ash is then transferred to closed silos and is immediately transferred for utilization. The dumpsites are generally artificially built but sometimes devastated land is used, he said. During wet treatment, ash is brought to a dumpsite after dewatering. An NTPC official said, “We are now moving towards dry waste as it is easier to extract the ash with this method. We have to put the ash through many processes, before we can actually utilize it.” How can Ash be utilized? Though ash does severe ecological damage, it can be used as a soil modifier and as a rich source of micro and macronutrients. This can help the agriculture sector. Ash is extensively used in encapsulated form, which involves binding the coal ash to form wallboards, concrete, roofing materials and bricks. Chetan, a brick kiln owner in Nagpur said, “We all had farms earlier, but the produce was low, since 74 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
the land here isnâ€™t very fertile. So, we moved to brick manufacturing, as ash was easily available from the numerous power plants nearby,â€? he said. Unencapsulated form involves use of ash in loose or sledge form. Ash in this form is mostly used is structural fills or embankments. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Children of workers at the NTPC premises. The Success Story from NTPC Though not commendable, there has been some work done to maximize ash utilization. NTPC Limited, a public-sector company has done immense work towards safe ash disposal. An NTPC official said, â€œNTPC-Rihand has provided mechanisms to load ash in bulks on train to transfer it via the rail network. They are installing such mechanisms in every upcoming project. We also conduct several workshops on ash disposal in villages within a range of 100 km from their projects to comply with the NITI Aayog directive. The workshops generally deal with promoting utilization of fly ash bricks in construction sector.â€? NTPC has been doing research on safe ash utilization with institutes like Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), New Delhi and Central Institute of Mining & Fuel Research (CIMFR). These institutes have helped demonstrate the use of ash in building railway embankment and mine filling respectively. The utilization of ash to build better bituminous roads, bricks, tiles and concrete sleepers for railways have been demonstrated at several locations across the country. 76 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Fly ash pond at NTPC plant. Ash disposal is very important and is one of the problems our environment faces that we can solve. Prioritizing ash disposal thus becomes very important for power plants and governments across all countries. Ash spills arenâ€™t a regular prenomenon. Itâ€™s better to keep it that way. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
The tough life of slum dwellers
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Muskan Babuta finds life hell for the rag-pickers who live in the Ghazipur slum, without proper sanitation, drinking water facilities and a clean toilet. Slum can be defined as “a densely populated usually urban area marked by crowding, dirty run-down housing, poverty, and social disorganization”, according to Merriam Webster dictionary. Cleanliness is defined as the state or quality of being clean. The gap is obvious. It’s so ironical that people of Ghazipur slums, a colony of rag-pickers, whose work makes the lives of others easier, are themselves forced to live in the worst of conditions. They don’t even have access to basic needs like toilets, water and clean surroundings. Life in an Indian slum is difficult and is not hidden. The Ghazipur landfill in East Delhi is the oldest landfill in the city containing at least 12 million tonnes of waste. The now defunct landfill is now estimated to be at least 50 feet tall. It’s so strange that life is so different just a few kilometres from the hustle and bustle of the city. Clogged drains, stagnant water, narrow lanes, cramped houses, heaps of garbage and a stench keep this slum isolated from the civilized world. Some of the slum dwellers stared at this reporter with suspicion, while some wee optimistic and were ready to talk. As they gathered around and started to share their tales of sorrow, it became clear that basic amenities like water and food are scarce here. Survival is hard, but they make it through somehow. The major problems at Ghazipur slum are: 1. No Water Supply: Water is supplied for only two hours a day. The same tap water is used for drinking, washing and cleaning. The municipal corporation does not supply drinking water to them. 2. Clogged Drains: There was virtually no sewerage system. The open drains were choked and garbage was strewn on the road. According to residents, the drains are supposed to be cleaned once a month, but after the residents petitioned the government officials several times, the drain was cleaned. However, the silt from the drain were removed and left on the streets, instead of being cleared, adding to the already dirty streets. 3. Toilets: There were very few personal toilets, as most houses were cramped and lacked space for toilets. There was one common toilet but was not used by women and children. A lady resident said, “We don’t use the common toilet. We will generally go in the open.” She added that the common toilet is far away, which is why most of them don’t use it. “We don’t have soaps, so we just wash our hands with water,” she said. 4. Unemployment: People living in Ghazipur have become unemployed ever since the landfill shut down and are finding it difficult to eke out a living. A Ghazipur resident said, “Something is better than nothing. So we manage with whatever we earn. We at least get to buy enough food to fill our stomachs twice a day.”
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Clogged drains of Ghazipur are causing many health problems. 5. Cramped Houses: The nightmare of living there is unimaginable. Most of the houses were single-room shanties and some of them had around 6-8 people crammed in them. One resident said, â€œWe are a family of 5 people and we live in this one room only. Back in our village, we had huge fields and lot of space. But my husband came looking for a better job in the city, and now we have to live like this.â€? 80 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
The narrow bylanes in the slum. Photo by MANVI SINGH A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
‘Karo Sambhav’: making India e-waste free 82 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Karo Sambhav is an organization which deals with electronic waste and suggests ways to reduce by collaborating with NGOs. BY MANYA KASHYAP
E-waste can be safely disposed of instead of being sent to landfills. NGO Karo Sambhav is working closely with other non-profits, schools and colleges to get rid of e-waste safely. With an increase in global warming and pollution in the world, the race to save the environment is increasing. People are trying to find ways to reduce waste, especially highly toxic electronic waste: from used mobile to broken laptops and batteries. Many countries in the world have adopted proper practices of disposing of this waste, but India is still grappling with introducing proper ways to dispose of e-waste. E-waste is the most harmful category of waste. It includes batteries, computers, TVs, monitors, cell phones, etc. Since we are in a digital age, the quantity of e-waste is huge. Harmful toxics like lead, mercury, and cadmium released by electronic devices goes straight into the soil and water. The same soil and water is used for irrigation purposes by farmers and when humans consume that food, there are chances of getting poisoned by these harmful heavy metals. The biggest hurdle is segregating e-waste is that it’s labour-intensive and expensive to boot. Now, the government has woken up to this problem because they know what impact e-waste can have on the world, if not controlled. Consumers should know that e-waste is illegal to dispose of the landfills. Those who are aware tend to keep it at their homes as they have no clue what to do with this type of waste. Karo Sambhav, a non-profit organization, has studied the problem andhas come up with aneffective way to collect and dispose this waste. It’s a Producer Responsibility Organization(PRO) which only deals with e-waste. Their aim is to make recycling a way of life. They collaborate with various NGOs, schools and colleges to spread awareness and tackle this issue. The organization has also launched their mobile application which teaches you how e-waste at home can be disposed of easily. The main objective is to safely dispose e-waste. Founder of Karo Sambhav, Pranshu Singhal, says he has a dream of a sustainable and systematic transformation of India’s e-waste sector. According to him, “The problem of e-waste is only going to grow exponentially. It’s important to engage with the issue because the problem cannot be solved without a behavioural shift on how we treat e-waste.” With an end-to-end value chain for management of e-waste and by engaging citizens, MNCs including Apple, Lenovo, Dell and HP, Karo Sambhav has successfully kept 2,91,310 kg of e-waste away from landfills.
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Compost machine boom for garbage free India 84 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Shivanshi Tomer finds a society in Gurugram which is whole-heartedly engaged in not only making its premises clean but is also planning to install a compost machine in their society which would reduce the gross waste which is sent out of the society by truckloads. With more number of apartments mushrooming in all parts of India, the total waste generated has also increased substantially. With a rise in number of societies it becomes necessary to ensure higher levels of sanitation and hygiene. This brings us to the basic problem which is present in almost every residential society in India i.e. cleanliness. The idea of disposing waste has just been this so far – to just get rid of waste. Once people are done disposing the waste they think they are clean. Maybe they are. But the a country isn’t. In fact it is the opposite. By mindlessly disposing off waste people are just getting rid of the immediate problem but are paving way for a bigger problem which they can’t dodge in the future.
Three different coloured bins used to segregate wet, dry and hazardous waste. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
“The problem lies in the mentality and age-old practice of people which is co cerned with not disposing of waste in a disciplined manner. People often di pose off kitchen wastes which contains vegetable peels and wet waste along with electronic waste like batteries,” said Kirti Gambhir, a resident of HUDA society in Yamunanagar. “People are either too lazy to practise waste segregation or are unaware of the importance of practising it. I as a housewife do practice waste segregation but the whole purpose gets defeated when the waste is collecsed, thereby mixing the two wastes together” she added. According to a Times of India article, although after the commission of Swachh Bharat Mission government has recommended each household to separate their waste in two different colored bins we surprisingly find less time in a day to even segregate them while throwing them off. People’s negligence can be spotted from the sight of garbage bins, which in many cases be ‘lying around’ among a heap of trash rather than ‘containing’ them. Recently, the Noida Authority has decided to implement its solid waste-management policy which was chalked out in 2016. ‘According to the directive, all gated housing societies, hotels and commercial institutions built on plot sizes over 5,000 sqm will have to make arrangements to segregate biodegradable waste and compost it within their own premises. While some Residents’ Welfare Associations have objected to the fine of Rs 1 lakh that will be imposed if the societies fail to adhere to the rule, there are several condominiums in Noida that already have their waste-management system in place” the TOI article said. “Several housing societies in Noida have compost machines which convert waste into manure. Within 24 hours, the wet waste can be processed and is ready for utilization. The dry waste that consists of plastic, paper waste, polythene etc., goes to an authorized vendor for recycling. So this way, the amount of waste that goes out of the society is reduced” said Kushagara Gupta, a worker of Sahas NGO, working with Exotica society in Gurugram. The NGO is now trying to take waste segregation to Gurugram and ensure that the high-end societies here too follow in the footsteps of NOIDA. Gupta is setting up a compost machines while working with Exotica society in Gurugram. He has convinced the residents to not only segregate waste but also dispose of them off in the same way. Each apartment in this Gurugram society has been provided with three different coloured bins in order to segregate dry, wet and hazardous waste. The residents who are mostly aged people or people who have previously lived abroad have not only agreed to this new system but are also supporting the NGO who is trying to bring a change. “This brings us to the main aim of installing compost machines in the societies which is to reduce the total waste which is sent out of the society. Majority of the waste is treated and used for society’s benefit itself. The compost then created is helpful in replenishing the green cover on earth” he added.
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The following steps could be taken to improve the condition of waste disposal in residential societies: • All the societies should have a proper waste-segregation system in place. • There should be a separate room for segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. • This process of segregation should be followed for hazardous waste, e-waste and organic waste which goes for recycling. • Residents should be provided with two different coloured bins - green and blue. • They should be briefed to put wet waste into blue bin and dry waste in green bin. • To make the process simpler this should be included in the maintenance charges of the society and no extra cost should be charged. If each and every society in India pledges to follow this system and not only install compost machines but also practise the process in a disciplined manner, then only there is some hope for societies in India contributing to a cleaner and greener world.
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The toilet manâ€™s dream: Saying no to open defecation
Museum of Toilets in New Delhi is run by Sulabh International, dedicated to the global history of sanitation and toilets. It was founded by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak BY LALIT DHAWAN
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, addressing the visitors to the museum 88 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Low-budget toilets for rural areas to end open defecation.
Scavengers narrate the troubles faced by them because society is still not ready to accept them. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Cleanliness in the community is just as important as cleanliness for individuals and families, so toilets are essential for all. 90 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Sulabh has made education an instrument of change and a weapon in the battle of liberation of scavengers, by building Sulabh Public School.
A staff member of Sulabh speaking with visitors and spreading awareness about the types of toilets. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Women learning tailoring skills to become financially independent. 92 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
A low-cost sanitary pad facility for women to maintain menstrual hygiene.
Awards and honours received by Sulabh for its outstanding achievements. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Ghazipur: a difficult place to live in
Ghazipur, a slum in Uttar Pradesh, which is a virtual hell for the people living there. The slum is known to residents of Delhi-NCR because of the landfill nearby. Proximity to the landfill is a recipe for diseases for the residents of the slum. BY NANDINI BISHNOI
A mobile cart converted into a home by a slum dweller.
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Narrow lanes filled with sewage, silt and mud. People have to live here and survive because they have little choice.
Rag-pickers go through the heaps of garbage to find reusable items which they can sell in the market. Most earn INR 200-300 per day. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
A woman and her child stare at their bleak future.
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Children like the one in the picture are taught from early childhood how to segregate the waste amd earn some money for the family.
Residents meet visitors in the hope that their complaints will be taken to the authorities concerned. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Roads are largely unmotorable as they are filled with slush and cowdung 98 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Oblivious to the filth around them, these boys are playing a game of cards
A dairy worker cuts fodder for his catlle in Ghazipur Dairy area A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
The Ghazipur landfill is an eyesore.
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A group of puppies play with their mother.
Many visitors find it difficult to breathe in the foul air in Ghazipur. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Is there any hope for the residents of Ghazipur 102 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
The condition of the Ghazipur slum is way beyond imagination. The slum, with its narrow and filthy streets is home to 1,500 families of rag pickers. Since the land is illegally occupied, little help is being provided by the government for the survival of the slum dwellers. BY VANI KAUL
What happens after Ghazipur slum dwellers complain to Municipal Corporation of Delhi? After numerous complaints by the leader of the slum and NGO workers, Municipal Corporation of Delhi had sent its team to clean up the drains of the slum. The drains are were cleaned after four months, even though the drains were supposed to be cleaned every month. The filth from the drains is left on the narrow streets, making them even more congested. The slum dwellers are forced to clean the filth off the streets themselves, either by disposing of it somewhere else or by putting it back into the drains.
Why have these slum dwellers shifted to the slum?
The slum dwellers themselves migrated from villages, looking for better jobs in the Capital, but are forced to live such filthy lives. Some of them said that they had a better life in the villages, where they owned farmlands and had better living conditions.
Only one public toilet for everyone?
Most of them said, that back in the village, they had toilets in their homes. Here, in the city, only one public toilet is available for use but people still defecate in the open rather than use the public toilet.
How can someone walk on such roads?
The roads in Ghazipur are in a rather sorry state. Potholes are a common sight, and cow dung has replaced asphalt. The roads are not suited for traffic. To add to the mayhem, there are several cows and buffaloes which block the streets. A resident said that they have got used to the inconvenience caused by the roads. Common vehicles spotted in the area were bikes and bullock carts. The dead animals are either put right outside or were thrown into the dumpsite. Their decaying bodies add to the foul odour in the slum. Amid all this filth, people do have a little sense of segregation. Some people are involved in segregation of plastic waste. They later sell the plastic.
Wait! There is waste-to-energy plant?
There is a 12 MW waste-to-energy plant. Though this is not the ideal power that can be generated, the plant acts as a ray of hope for the place. But again, given that the Ghazipur dumpsite is overflowing, one plant is not enough. The workers from the slums work in pathetic conditions. Not only is their environment filthy but also they have no proper safety equipment. This causes a lot of safety hazards for the workers. The rotting waste releases a lot of methane which is extremely dangerous if inhaled, but the workers donâ€™t wear any gas masks. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
How Sulabh changed these scavengersâ€™ lives 104 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
“We did this work openly for decades, nobody stopped us” -Usha BY LAKSHAY SHARMA
Imagine getting up in the morning and immersing yourself neck-deep in sewage. What could be more loathsome than that? Unfortunately, that’s a ‘career’ for 1.8 lakh families in India. In India, manual scavenging was banned in 1993 but it continues to be the profession of thousands of citizens. Manual scavenging is the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or handling in any manner, human excreta from dry latrines and sewers. It often involves using the most basic of tools such as buckets, brooms and baskets. This job is not only despicable but also life-threatening to those who don’t use protective equipment. “I got married into a family of manual scavengers and I saw my husband was financially dependent on his mother. He forced me to do the same work to add to the family income,” says Guddi, a rehabilitated manual scavenger from Alwar. Government & NGOs’ take Despite two Acts prohibiting and rehabilitating manual scavengers passed by Government of India, over 300 deaths due to manual scavenging have been reported from across the country in 2017 alone, according to a reply given by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in the Lok Sabha in December last year. Tamil Nadu topped the list with the highest number of deaths due to manual scavenging, followed by Karnataka, UP and Haryana. Also, Indian Railways is the largest employer of manual scavengers, with an unknown number on their rolls. Most are supposed to hide their identity as ‘sweepers’ who are employed with the railways through contractors, and they earn around INR 200 per day, the ‘Indiaspend’ reported in November 2015. It is seen that some NGOs have been providing a solution to the social problem by providing alternative employment to the scavengers and education to their children. Sulabh International’s role It is an award-winning voluntary non-profit organisation working in the field of sanitation. Some of the initiatives run by Sulabh: • Rehabilitation of scavengers • Vocational training programmes • Education of the children of ex-scavengers • Public awareness How a woman’s life was transformed Usha told this reporter of how Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh, visited their colony in Alwar some five years ago and asked her whether she would give up scavenging if offered an alternative job. She replied in the affirmative and from that point her transformation began. A SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM PROJECT
Usha (left) with the group of rehabilitated manual scavengers from Alwar “I could not afford to let go of this opportunity,” Usha said. ‘Nai Disha’ a game changer “Baba (Pathak) established Nai Disha, a centre of Sulabh International in Alwar, which became the centre for the production of pickles, papad, noodles and other eatables,” she said. In this way, Sulabh generated gainful employment for them. As the eatables prepared by their group at Nai Disha have begun selling in the market, it became a guarantee for their stable long-term employment. Quite a few of them started working at the centre and earning their livelihood. Her affiliation to Nai Disha has not only given her economic independence but also enables her to live with dignity. “Now people address me as ‘Madam’ and they have no objection to eating food cooked by her. I ceased to be an untouchable. Working at Nai Disha, I get a stipend of Rs 2,000 a month and add Rs 1,000 more to my income by putting in some extra work privately,” Usha said. 106 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
Reasons for open defecation are just excuses
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Poverty keeps residents of slums in East Delhi from building their own toilets while the municipal corporation looks the other way. Marora’s residents have found a way out, thanks to Sulabh International BY MUSKAAN JAIN
Even after so many efforts from the government and NGOs to build toilets and encourage their use, there are still a considerable number of people who defecate in the open. And surprisingly, it is not only because of lack of access to the toilets. Problems The obstacles to the process of making India ‘Open Defecation Free’ (ODF) fall in two main categories: Construction of toilets and use of toilets. While so many areas marked for ODF still don’t have toilets, there are many people who have access to the toilets but prefer to defecate in the open. The reasons include dirty and suffocated public toilet, lack of water supply in public toilets and lack of dustbins. Maya Devi, a resident of a slum in Delhi, said, “We’ve complained to the government many times that we do not have enough toilets in our area and sought the construction of cemented toilets instead of the mobile ones but no action has been taken so far. The government doesn’t pay attention to our needs.” There were some slums in East Delhi where people were willing to use a public toilet as they do not have enough money to construct one for themselves. Women of those slums had one complaint in common, “We do not even have sufficient money to build houses. How can we build toilets?” People in rural areas have a different story to tell. They are not habituated to defecating in a closed area and want to look at the sky while defecating. They don’t consider toilets important. They still follow the old tradition of defecating outside and also consider it more hygenic. Solutions But a solution to the problem of open defecation has been evolved by Sulabh International, an NGO. Marora, a village in Mewat district (one of the most backward) in Haryana, had no toilets four to five months ago. People used to go to a neighbouring open ground to defecate. That resulted in diseases and infections. The residents used dirty pieces of cloth in place of sanitary napkins. But now, every house in that village has a toilet which is kept clean. An elderly man in the village, who did not even have a cemented house, said, “We used to face problems earlier. But after the toilets were constructed, our lives have become easier and comfortable. We do not go out to defecate.” But Sulabh’s solution creating ‘sustainable toilets’. Sulabh toilets are affordable and consume much less space. The toilets can be constructed with any easily available material like bamboo, wood, bricks, concrete or even stone. It uses two pits to contain the excreta that goes from the pot. At any given time, one pit is used and the other remains blocked until the first one is filled to the brim. While the second one gets filled, the excreta in the first one dries up. This eliminates the foul smell from the gases which are by then soaked up by the soil 108 | CLEANLINESS WARRIORS
MayaDevi and two other residents of a slum with mobile toilets in East Delhi Photo by MUSKAAN JAIN along with the moisture that also enriches the soil. The dried substance is then taken out and crushed so that it can be used as manure. The first pit is now empty and ready for use. It requires less space as the pits are underground and the area can be used for any other purpose above the ground. Water supply and sewerage issues too are eliminated. The pot is kept at such an angle that it requires minimum water to flush out the excreta. It only takes about 1-2 litres of water per flush in these toilets. Also, there are different designs of toilets to match people’s requirements. There are open-roof toilets for those who want fresh air and gaze at the sky while defecating. Awareness was created among the people of the village about the importance of the toilets and the psychological barrier was broken. A Sulabh volunteer said, “The hygiene conditions were pathetic in the village. Girls used to use dirty pieces of cloth which were used for cleaning shoes and cycles by the other members of the family in place of sanitary napkins. How can they not have any infections?” They were taught how to use and maintain these toilets. The lives of the villagers in Marora have become easier and more hygienic with the construction of the toilets.
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A Ghazipur slum dweller setting up his hookah. Photo by MUSKAAN JAIN
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