March 22, 2022

Photo essay: More than a waste management site

A glimpse into the Ghazipur landfill where hundreds of informal workers segregate, recycle, and circulate waste back into the economy.

2 min read

A mountain of sorts stands at the eastern end of Delhi. As you get closer, it becomes apparent that the mountain is a giant heap of garbage known as the Ghazipur landfill. It is a source of informal employment for hundreds of people.

I first visited Ghazipur in 2017, and over the years I have witnessed a series of initiatives undertaken to recycle the disproportionate amount of waste produced by the city on a daily basis. In what appears to be a sign of change, the sight of burning garbage has been replaced by giant machines installed by the local municipal corporation to segregate, recycle, repackage, and supply waste back into the economy. Approximately 20 backhoes and excavators and 15 waste separators and sieves (trommels) are kept running through the day; none of these were present during my visit in 2017.

A range of businesses are dependent on the waste that is segregated at the site. This includes plastic, metal, fabric, polythene, glass, as well as various materials that are used to make sanitary tiles, manure, and more.

A ragpicker making her way through garbage at the Ghazipur landfill near New Delhi-waste management

Every day hundreds of ragpickers toil at the landfill, making a living out of garbage.

Eagles perched on a waste heap as trucks dump waste in the background at the Ghazipur landfill near New Delhi-waste management

Eagles await their turn as the trucks dump the garbage.

The watchman, Mr. Dubey, watching over the Ghazipur landfill near New Delhi-waste management

Hailing from the town of Mau in Uttar Pradesh, Mr Dubey is employed as a watchman by a private security agency that is contracted to provide personnel to the landfill. Stationed at the very top of the heap, his job is to keep a watch on the recycling set-up.

Kebal Singh, a truck driver at the Ghazipur landfill near New Delhi, in his truck-waste management

Kebal Singh works as a truck driver at the landfill, where he has spent the last three decades of his life.

An informal worker picking waste from inside a trommel screen at the Ghazipur landfill near New Delhi-waste management

Trommel screens help in waste segregation—they act as sieves and filter out materials of a certain size.

A mechanic wearing a welding maskin front of a machine at the Ghazipur landfill near New Delhi-waste management

The machines work constantly and undergo significant wear and tear. A team of on-site mechanics and welders are responsible for fixing and maintaining the machines.

Sprinklers at the Ghazipur landfill near New Delhi spray water droplets into the air to combat suspended dust-waste management

The dust suspended in the air is a health hazard. Newly deployed sprinklers spray water droplets into the air so that the dust subsides.

An informal worker at the Ghazipur landfill near New Delhi prepares a meal-waste management

Workers who live on-site take turns to prepare meals for each other.

An informal worker at the Ghazipur landfill seated on a bed in on-site container housing-waste management

Many workers at Ghazipur reside in on-site container housing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Abhishek Singh-Image
Abhishek Singh

Abhishek Singh is a photographer with several years of experience in custom and specialised photography. His work has previously been featured in various magazines worldwide, including LensCulture, Inspired Eye, and Progressive Street. He has also participated in a variety of exhibitions, including Revolve Gallery's Six Feet: Boundaries, Belonging & Becoming and Lalit Kala Akademi's Samanvay.

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