Karachi's burning garbage takes away childhood of scavenger kids

* Slum children spend hours to scavenge smoky garbage mountains

Karachi's burning garbage takes away childhood of scavenger kids

KARACHI: Its early dawn but there aren't any singing birds or sound of any water fall. Dang barking dogs after wandering all night had just slept. The air is stinking with burning garbage.

Teenagers, Ali Hassan and his brother Salman, just woke up. After sipping the tea, they took plastic gunny bag and started walking towards smoky mountains. Hazy sun has just risen behind the smoky mountain. After 5-minute walk they both were on the top of the mountain of burning garbage. With the help of a wooden stick, both started scavenging through the garbage to find plastic bottles, iron pieces and glass bottles, their only sources of livlihood.

The village, Goth Noor Muhammad, located on main Hub River Road that goes to Balochistan, in outskirts of Karachi, is declared as an official garbage dumping site by Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). The village comprises on around 1000 residents, half of them are children and almost every resident works as scavenger.

Every morning, residents in groups including women reach at the garbage site to find some recyclables to sale to the local shops, which later sale it to the recycling factories in Karachi and other cities.

Though, the village is declared as garbage dumping site, but dumping of city's garbage is not being done scientifically. There are four major official dumping sites in Karachi. But there is no incinerator and also not any site there are pitches to throw the garbage. Almost everywhere, the garbage is thrown under open sky and later is set on fire, which causes air pollution and also it contributes to the global warming.

Around 200 trucks and loaders from across Karachi city bring garbage to the dumping site of Noor Muhammad Goth and throw it in open spaces. The garbage has become mountain. To get rid of the garbage, it is set on fire. All the time thick clouds of smoke emit from the burning garbage comprising decaying food items, plastic bottles, polyethylene bags, paper and electronic items. The village dwellers inhale the polluted air all the time, sometimes the thick clouds of smoke reach to other colonies of Karachi.

These villagers and the scavenger kids do not wear any protective mask, gloves or any other safety equipments, simply because they can not afford it. Standing right on the burning garbage, these kids, with the help of wood stick explore the garbage to find some recyclables.

"Me and my brother hardly find 5 to 10 kg of iron pieces and some plastic bottles after working for several hours every day", said Ali Hassan. The local shop vendor buy iron for Rs 20, tin for Rs 10, glass bottle for Rs 5 and brass for Rs 80.

Many children are suffering from asthma, skin and eye infections and also fatal diseases like hepatitis. The village also lacks any healthcare facilities.

Pakistan's biggest city of Karachi produces around 12000 tons of garbage every day. AD Sajnani, Chief of the provincial Solid Waste Management Board (SWMB), admits that only half of the total garbage is collected. "The rest of garbage is either lying near the residential area, commercial centres across the city," he told Daily Times.



Published in Daily Times, July 22nd , 2017.