The Kajla dump yard is one of Dhaka’s three landfill sites. This city, the capital of Bangladesh, has over 12 million people and, on average, 5,000 tonnes of waste are dumped at Kajla every day. Trucks keep arriving all day long: each one makes at least two trips and some manage to make four. It is impossible to keep a record of the number of people working at Kajla, but at least 1,000 people are engaged in garbage picking, of whom at least 150 are children.
Scavenging is one of the most hazardous jobs at the dump yard. Children like these young boys collect used paper, plastic, rags and bottles and sell them to retailers for recycling.
Their painstaking search amidst the piles of soggy waste, to find pieces of saleable junk, will ensure them two meals a day. These children do not have the luxury of staying away from the waste dump and going to school like other children of their age. Their gruelling labour helps to supplement their parents’ incomes.
Fights break out between the dump-yard children quite frequently. But it is seldom serious. The children tend to get along well and look out for each other.
My passion for photography began in 1996. I attended the World Press Photo seminar in Dhaka for three years and graduated with a BA in photojournalism from Pathshala, Dhaka. Since then my work has appeared in more than 35 major international publications.
This article is from
the December 2009 issue
of New Internationalist.
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