The garbage guru, better known as Devika, is back at school. This time she’s got an extraordinary week-long programme for the 7th standard students. It began yesterday with a quick field trip to the Madanapalle dump so that the children could get a sense of the gravity of the problem. This time we walked around a bit and spoke with some of the workers. We learned that they work 10 hours a day and their primary task is to segregate the wet and dry waste as best they can. It seems like an insurmountable task given the state of the mixed waste at this place. It was also almost entirely a sea of smoke. Everything was burning and it was extremely difficult to breathe, even while using my dupatta to try to minimise how much I inhaled. I was told that the blue water tank in the midst of all the waste is to cool down all the burning fires, which apparently burn 24 hours a day.
The worst part of the visit was watching a truck filled with perfectly good sitaphal (custard apple) get dumped on top of all the flaming mixed waste. A large family of pigs immediately made a run for it as it was at least easier for them than rummaging through the garbage for some food.
In the evening Devika did a presentation for the children about the status of waste on our planet, trying to make it clear how dire the situation is. One boy shared an interesting maxim that I haven’t heard before: “there’s enough on this earth for our needs, but not for our greed”. Devika also made them think about some of our habits like the fact that we may take our worn out or faded kurta and donate it to the poor, which makes us feel good. Then we use this as an excuse to shop and buy more. She compared this to when she was growing up and clothes, even when torn, would be repaired.
The kids seem excited and engaged and I’m certain she’s making an impact!