Waste is inescapable and in Mumbai, the sheer mass of people living in the city’s confines results in a staggering amount of rubbish to be dealt with. The Deonar dumping ground in Govandi is the main destination for the refuse of the city, and it’s been well over capacity for a long time now. This landfill was set up in 1927 and it deals with 10,000 metric tons of waste every single day. This includes dry, wet and medical waste. It even receives the waste from Mumbai’s abattoirs. This of course has resulted in the area becoming a toxic death trap and for the 600,000 residents of the Govandi area, living there is a daily nightmare.
While the media usually chooses to ignore this situation (unless the smoke starts blowing into town) the Mumbai-based fundraising platform RaddiConnect has decided to tackle this problem head on. They connected with the NGO ‘Apnalaya,’ which operates in the Govandi area, to find out the true extent of the problems.
There were of course the obvious health hazards such as Tuberculosis, Asthma, malnutrition, deformities and HIV, which are all very common complaints around Deonar. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that there are no public hospitals in the area and that most of the residents, especially the women and children, are employed as ragpickers or waste segregators, which puts them on the front line when it comes to diseases. The public schools of Deonar only teach up to Class 7 because the children prefer to trade in their education for a chance to earn a little money each day ragpicking.
RaddiConnect is a five man army that is trying to deal with this seemingly insurmountable problem. Co-founders Gurashish and Rahul first started working towards this issue back in 2014. They participated in Google’s Start-up Weekend competition where participants had to work on an idea over 3 days and pitch it on the final day to a jury of investors. Gurashish had been thinking of something along these lines for a while but until then had failed to find the proper platform. During the competition, they started interviewing RaddiWallas in the locality and researching the current waste management and recycling scenario in India.
They soon realised that they were dealing with a market ripe for disruption and innovation. For instance, India recycles only 27 percent of total paper waste of the country which is extremely low when you consider the volume of paper it consumes. Even though we have so much waste paper, our own recycling mills have been importing segregated waste paper from the West which didn’t really add up considering the abundance of waste we have to deal with internally.
With these ideas in mind, RaddiConnect (originally called Scrap It Out) pitched their project and ended up winning the competition, which validated the idea and gave them the confidence to continue working on it. They were soon joined by their third co-founder, Raunaq, and together they worked hard at new options to help the city. Since then, the project has evolved from picking up recyclable scrap to providing Zero Garbage solutions to societies and institutions. They pick up dry recyclable scrap, and they collect the wet waste to later produce manure or biogas.
Nine months into their task, they realise that the problems they’re trying to tackle are immense but they believe that their timing may help them and India is at the brink of a green revolution. Awareness is rising and people are taking a more active interest in dealing with waste management. They hope that ten years from now, dumping grounds will be obsolete and India will have entered a new phase of healthy living. Over the course of their work, RaddiConnect has raised Rs. 1,77,000 from collecting Raddi, and this money has been transferred to their affiliated NGOs. Their services are available in 24 areas across Mumbai from Colaba to Andheri. They also worked with Khar Gymkhana to make them 100 percent garbage free, they pick up their recyclables and convert their wet waste to manure.
While they have made one step towards zero waste, there are still plenty of dumping grounds to be dealt with. The biggest culprit, Deonar is currently dealing with an unprecedented crisis. In January, a huge fire broke out in the area and after that ragpicker entries had been discontinued in the name of safety. This left the whole sector out of a job and struggling to make ends meet. Contrary to what you may think, ragpicking is actually a highly skilled profession. They need to know in great detail how to differentiate between every item they encounter, the qualities, materials and the eventual price each piece will be sold for. This has resulted in a set of people with very specific skills who are unwilling to change professions.
This June, RaddiConnect are celebrating Environment Day in a very special way, they’re asking the people of Mumbai to come together and donate their Raddi, the profits of which will go to ‘Apnalaya’ and the residents of Deonar. Between the 1st and 5th of June, any individuals or corporations can donate a minimum of 10 kilograms of scrap paper, which will be picked up free of cost and the proceeds of which will fund the medical clinics of Deonar. They intend to make the whole process transparent, publishing all the details and finances online so you know exactly where your donations are going. So this Environment Day go check out their incredible cause and maybe be a part of making India a greener country.
Featured Image courtesy of www.youthkiawaaz.com
Words: Shireen Jamooji