Scavenging for Wealth

BY Aziz Changezi
MENTOR: Didie Ruef
PAKISTAN PHOTO FESTIVAL FELLOWSHIP 2017 PROJECT
The city of Karachi is one of the biggest metropolis of the world, with its huge population producing thousands of tons of waste every day. On the margins of this city, live an underclass society of people who sift through heaps of unhygienic waste every day and find recyclable materials – no matter how big or small – to make their ends meet.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is an oft-repeated phrase. But this proverbial saying rings more than true for hundreds of thousands of families that find its livelihoods in this very waste.

The city of Karachi is one of the biggest metropolis of the world, with its huge population producing thousands of tons of waste every day. On the margins of this city, live an underclass society of people who sift through heaps of unhygienic waste every day and find recyclable materials – no matter how big or small – to make their ends meet.

Every morning, trucks come loaded with trash and dump massive amounts of waste in these areas, and every morning, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, gather around to sort the trash – it’s a family affair. They look for metallic objects, plastic containers etc and then sell them off to run the household.

Although a source of income, the task is not without its hazards. With improper waste management leading to the loss of 5 million lives annually, these families are in the home ground of diseases. Lacking money to afford even shoes, children can be seen running around bare feet on trash. It’s their play area, it’s their livelihood.

 

 

While the entrepreneurial spirit and the quest for making a living are commendable, should making a residing involve risking your life to dangerous diseases?

addresses the issue of Karachi, Pakistan which lacks a well-defined waste management system, local families have found a way to make a living out of recycling. Every morning, trucks dump massive amounts of waste in the outskirts of the city of Karachi. The residents of the areas surrounding these dumps, living under impoverished conditions, gather around to sort the trash. It’s a family affair. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, all contribute to the task of sifting through the piles in search of metallic objects, plastic containers, etc. which are then sold to run the house.

Although a source of income, the task is not without its hazards. With improper waste management leading to the loss of 5 million lives annually, these families are in the home ground of diseases. Lacking money to afford shoes, children can be seen running around bare feet on trash. It’s their play area, it’s their livelihood.

While the entrepreneurial spirit and the quest for making a living are commendable, should making a residing involve risking your life to dangerous diseases?

People living and working in these areas are not the refugees or the economic migrants. These are Pakistanis of Karachi underclass reduced to scratching out a living from this waste. To get a sense of how miserable this place is: men, women and children make up the scavenging team and get paid a tiny cut to collect recyclable waste of multinational companies. These people are the economic slaves effectively tied to live like this. The residents of the area, living under impoverished conditions, gather around to sort the trash. It’s a family affair of shifting through the piles in search of metallic objects, plastic containers, etc. which are then sold to run the household.

 

The burning of waste in these areas emits toxic gases into the air – being all the while inhaled by the workers and the citizens of the surrounding areas. 

The seeking argument is that they cannot afford to go to a doctor or to the hospital because they don’t have insurance or government issued medical card. It feels like the government has discriminated and segregated these people from the country itself.