Solid Waste Management and Community Livelihood Training at Kurla, Mumbai

Solid Waste Management (SWM) is a multifaceted problem comprising political, socio-economic, institutional, and environmental aspects. Due to exponential urban growth, it has become one of the most significant issues faced by urban spaces in developing countries.

Asia’s largest dumping ground-the Deonar landfill is situated in suburban Mumbai, (Source: Pal Pillar/AFP)

Mumbai is India’s most cosmopolitan city, its financial powerhouse and the nerve centre of India’s fashion industry. It is the perfect blend of culture, customs and lifestyles. Here, the slums have emerged as a significant settlement form, primarily for the urban poor.

Around 65% of Mumbai’s 12 million people live in slums.

One of the largest sprawling slum regions in Mumbai is Kurla which lies on the southern end of Salsette Island along the east bank of the Mithi River. It is approximately 8.5 km far away from the Deonar landfill.

Densely packed, Kurla is home to around 100,000 low-income to middle-class families, having small scale businesses and an informal waste management system.

On an average, 500 grams of mixed waste per day is generated by a slum dweller of Mumbai.

Presently, Earth5R in partnership with RiverRecycle, United Nations Technology Innovation Labs and VTT is running the “Mithi River Clean-up Project” to stop plastic and floating debris travelling in the river from entering the Arabian Sea.

The plastic-debris recovery machinery, which has the capacity to remove 60 tonnes of plastic per day, is handled by Earth5R. The plastic thus removed from the river is being recycled afterwards.

But what if, this plastic dumping is stopped at the preliminary stage itself i.e. at the source of waste generation?

For that matter the Earth5R volunteers, who are the frontline environment warriors, engage with the local communities to bring about behavioural changes in the slum dwellers by providing awareness training and hands-on workshops on effective solid waste management, especially plastic waste. They also educate them on how the household waste can be converted into some usable resource, thereby opening the doors of new livelihood opportunities for the locals.

An Earth5R volunteer engaging with people from all walks of life.

This helps them to drive systemic change, particularly through businesses and their supply chains that have a vital role to play in the transformation to a more sustainable circular plastics economy.

By 2030, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 people on the planet will live in a slum or other informal settlement.

Hands-on training sessions with two different groups in Kurla slum

Earth5R volunteers personally make field visits in order to address the gap in community involvement and sustainable environmental practices within the Kurla region of Mumbai through its Solid Waste Management & Community Livelihood Trainings.

A complete mismatch between population increase and waste processing capacity increase is raising a concern toward imminent health hazards for the slum dwellers.

The Earth5R volunteers interact with the local residents which comprise people from all age groups such as children, adults, senior citizens to adopt sustainable and decentralized waste management models. They communicate with the locales in their native language, with the help of fun activities, informative visual images, sports activities and quizzes.

These training covers topics such as types of waste, how to segregate waste and its proper disposal, hazardous impacts of open dumping and making compost from wet/organic waste.

They are also taught how waste can be used as a resource, upcycling of plastic bottles/paper/old discarded clothes and how to sell them in the local markets. Women form an integral part of these vibrant discussions, thereby bringing the community closer.

Another solid waste management and livelihood skills training session

A part of the recyclable waste generated, is sold by the households themselves and part of it is picked up by the rag-pickers and waste-pickers to earn their own living. This provides them with livelihood opportunities and the waste also gets reduced.

Such community-based training is considered an excellent way to develop an understanding of the local issues by connecting them to personal, first-hand experiences and familiar, accessible examples. Here, the participants can be given more opportunities to apply learning of environmental knowledge, awareness, attitudes, and practice in practical, real-life settings.

This strengthens the social integration of local communities and helps them better manage waste at local level, apart from providing them with livelihood options from waste.