When we think of an urban slum, we probably have an image of little cute children running around, women and men working hard to make ends meet while surviving in crammed temporary houses, dilapidated or weak structures and a not so clean area. The slums (or any informal location) are generally seen to be surrounded by filth. The same was the case of a slum in Pune city, along Mula road referred as the Mula-Road Slum. The issue of garbage management was addressed by CHF India Foundation, a leading organisation in the domain of creating a positive social impact.
About the initiative:
The aim of the initiative was to make it community driven. The project kick started with the initial focus on creating awareness about the problem of waste and the potential harm being caused by it, convincing the households to segregate, train women in the locality to take up the onus of collection and cover all 1200 settlements in the complete slum area. The initiative focussed on 100% collection of segregated waste, composting the wet waste and responsibly handing over the dry waste to the PMC. Proactive women were handpicked and trained for the know-how of collection, composting process along with the hygiene habits to be adopted. Along with 4 waste pickers, there are 2 helpers and 1 manager in this entire community.
The routine of the women starts at 8 AM in the morning when they spread in the entire vicinity and collect segregated waste from each house. This takes around two to three hours to cover all houses. The community has been taught how to segregate waste and now eventually they have adapted to the entire process. They have been provided with two separate bins for keeping the waste. Once the collection is completed, the waste pickers work on the wet waste where they open the compost pits, add new waste and other processes for the compost preparation. As of the dry waste, they further segregate items for their use which they resell for additional income while the remaining is handed over to the PMC waste collectors. This process is repeated almost all everyday thus ensuring a clean and hygienic surrounding.
- To begin with, the initiative was entirely led by community after initial essential training. Women in the community were included in day to day activities and thus empowered.
- After initial training, the program now runs entirely by the community members. Thus, it is a project by the people for the people. This creates a sense of responsibility within the community members.
- Each household pays monthly fees of Rs. 40 for this service. Thus, the income of the workers is generated from the community itself and the additional sum is used for maintenance.
- The compost made from the wet waste is sold to local farmers and other buyers. Being organic and good quality compost, it also generates additional income for the community and is used for the betterment of the same.
- Getting members on board for the project to handle “waste” was also a challenge owing to the taboo and disgust around waste. CHFIF did a fantastic job in making the members aware about the ways to collect and manage it. The people were convinced when they realised the value of waste and how it can help them in having additional income sources along with a sense of pride.
- Convincing the members to set up a composting pit in the area was not easy as the households were worried about the smell and mess that would be created in the area. But CHFIF built decent quality pits and trained the members well. Thus, today one passes by the compost pits without any trace of foul smell or dirt.
- Off recently, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the financial repercussions on the members, the process of waste collection and management have slowed down a bit. Thus, an external body now is required to ensure that the
The initiative was a grand success owing to the help and training from CHF India Foundation and the active participation from the community. Because the community was responsible for their own success, it helped in making the members passionate about the work. Also, the incentives from the work created the enthusiasm in the workers. Thus, big changes can b brought about in local communities (as small as 1200 households) by such initiatives when the end beneficiaries are made to be an essential and critical part of the entire change making process.
Along with not only empowering members, we must also ensure empowering and training in bulk. Thus, in a community where 4 waste pickers, 2 helpers and 1 manager are sufficient to handle the project at a time, multiple such sets of members can be created who work in quarter or semi-annual cycles. This will ensure that that service is extended to even more households.
Also, since we are dealing with waste management, the children and youth of the community must be made aware about waste reduction all together so that they step in more sustainable lifestyles. Teaching the future generations and making them aware of their actions remains of utmost importance.
(Article is written with inputs from Mr. Rajiv Sarwade, CHF India Foundation and their website https://www.chfindiafoundation.org/. The Discussion is the opinion of the author)