Ragpickers lose jobs as world tackles climate change

By Joydeep Gupta, IANS,

Bonn : Attempts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) are throwing ragpickers out of jobs, says the leader of an Indian ragpickers’ union. They are not reducing the emissions either, she argues.

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Baida Gaekwad of Pune’s Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat came here to the June 1-12 preparatory meet for the December climate summit in Copenhagen to tell delegates from 182 countries that an important part of what they were doing was wrong.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has already funded over 300 projects that incinerate garbage and produce methane for energy from landfills. Otherwise, garbage thrown about haphazardly or put in an open landfill releases methane, a potent GHG.

But recycling saves 25 times more GHG than incineration and seven times more than landfill, Gaekwad said Wednesday, pointing out that a new “refuse derived fuel” plant in the Pune landfill near her home has reduced her earnings by more than half.

“If the waste goes into the incineration plant, what do we eat,” Gaekwad said.

“My entire family depends on waste we pick from the garbage dump and recycle. Only 20 of the 300 workers in the plant are from us ragpickers.

“The rest have lost our right to scrap and our earnings are now less than half. We want organic waste to be turned into compost and biogas, and the recyclable waste should be given to us so that we can live,” she said.

An excess of GHG in the earth’s atmosphere is leading to climate change, which is already affecting farm output, triggering droughts, floods and storms more frequent and more severe, and raising the sea level.

India is among the countries worst affected by climate change, with people like Gaekwad bearing the brunt of the effects.