Waste pickers will now get provident funds in the Dhapa landfill in Kolkata
DHRUBAJYOTI GHOSH speaks to Down To Earth
In your book, you've talked about successful schemes like free eggs in exchange of waste to promote waste management. Are there any other successful schemes in the world?
I have come across only one example in Bangkok. Nothing on the same lines has happened in India. We keep talking about the work that waste pickers do, but we aren't ready to improve their working conditions. After the death of a waste picker, Kalyani Mondal, I sent a letter to the chief minister of West Bengal asking for provident fund support for these people. Finally three months ago, the government gave the order. So for the first time in our country, waste pickers will get provident funds.
Could you elaborate on the process of growing food on garbage at the landfill site?
Root vegetables should be avoided. The major crops grown at the Dhapa landfill are cauliflower and corn. Both have leaves, where the toxins get stored.
Who is eating these vegetables? Who are the buyers?
The people of Kolkata. In 1986; it took me nine months to calculate the amount of vegetables grown here. It is 147 tonnes per day. Since then a number of research studies have been done on the landfill, but not one has tried to calculate the money these vegetables fetch.
Why isn't food grown on any other landfills?
It is not as simple as throwing seeds on the ground. It is a technology of growing food. First, you have to convert the waste into manure. The composting method in itself is a technology, but one cannot just grow vegetables on garbage. A technology is required.