Under the thick fog of pollution of New Delhi, India, a misshapen hill is hidden. When the wind blows and the horizon clears, its menacing silhouette appears little by little, revealing its true nature.
This monster is made of waste and garbage, amassed over 70 meters high. On its top, tiny shadows are active from morning to evening: the children of the Ghazipur monster.
The Ghazipur dump is visible for miles around. Located in the suburbs of New Delhi, it was put into service in 1984 to receive the garbage of the Indian capital. Today, the mountain of waste has surpassed the height of the Taj Mahal.
On top, thousands raptor prowl over the dump. Every day, 2,000 tons of garbage are unloaded there. Full trucks follow one another, dumping their cargo before imposing tractors pass behind to turn, move and flatten the waste. Large waves of garbage are formed before collapsing with a bang.
After the passage of the tractor comes the turn of the ragpickers. From 5 o’clock in the morning, hundreds of them climb the mountain to come here, at the top of the monster, to collect the waste in order to sell it. Among them, many children, sometimes under ten years old.
Girls and boys alike, these children stare at the ground all day long, looking for plastics, recyclable packaging and metal. For about ten hours of work per day, they can recover the equivalent of 3 euros. Once collected, the objects recovered from the monster are piled up in large bags to be more easily transported.
Once the waste is well packed, the bags are hoisted onto the heads to be brought to the edge of the dump. From above, the ragpickers drop the precious bags, which roll down to the lower level of the mountain. At the end of the day, the bags are taken to the villages below.
The ragpickers are confined to living in the slums at the foot of the dump that feeds them. Like an oil stain, the latter does not cease to spread and covers today an area as large as more than forty soccer fields. Living below the monster is not without consequences: diseases are frequent and the fine particles that come from the landfill wreak havoc over more than 5 kilometers.
During short breaks, the children of Ghazipur find refuge on a heap of flowers, placed there, in the middle of the rubbish, by one of the trucks. But when the flowers touch the ground, the toxic liquid that trickles down almost automatically disintegrates the petals. Called leachate, this black liquid is a dangerous mixture from all the waste. The water table is contaminated with it up to 300 meters deep.
During the breaks, childhood quickly takes over. The young boys tease each other, bicker, before making up. Then they fight again. Children remain children, the monster can do nothing about it.
But growing up below the dump is a real plague for them. The noxious air does not allow their brains to develop normally, making them smaller than average. They will also be exposed to many neurological diseases during their lives.
In recent years, however, the resale of recyclable materials has not been as lucrative. Their meager income is shrinking and may soon be insufficient. No alternative is offered to them by the authorities.
About Robin Tutenges
A 25 year old photographer and journalist, I live and work between Paris and Toulouse. I also travel regularly abroad, especially in India. I am a member of the Hans Lucas press agency. I have worked for the political service of AFP, the Times, Polka Magazine, Slate.fr, L’Humanité, Paris Match Belgium, Le Figaro, Marianne, Médiapart, and La Libre. My favorite photographic subjects are minorities, conflicts and their consequences as well as social movements. I have notably worked on the Landless in India and the Uyghurs in France.