The Dharavi Project is a multimedia project that utilizes artists and social-impact programs to change the living conditions of over 100,000, 'rag-pickers' who are segregating waste in and around the landfills of Mumbai. Its mission is to increase the welfare of rag-pickers, and give their profession a legitimate and sustainable voice in the recycling and waste-management value chain at Dharavi. The Dharavi Project in Mumbai is an initiative of the ACORN Foundation (India), and is a registered charitable trust.
Its mission is to improve the welfare of rag-pickers, and give their profession a legitimate and sustainable voice in the recycling and waste-management value chain at Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia.
The 8000 tons of waste generated daily by the city of Mumbai cannot be entirely picked up by the municipal corporation, and the gap is filled by Mumbai's rag-pickers who pick up the tons of garbage littering the streets. For this work they are not paid by the city and the city does not recognize them as a workforce. These thousands of children women and youth earn a living by selling the dry waste to scrap dealers, and most of the rag-pickers make barely 75-100 rupees a day.
The Dharavi Project has been working with the community of rag-pickers in the slums of Dharavi, and hopes to give them the credit they deserve as green collar workers who are cleaning our vibrant but messy city. The hard labour of Mumbai's rag-pickers has ensured a place for Dharavi as one of the largest recycling hubs in Asia.
For a start, all members of the Dharavi Project are being given identity cards. They have formed their own committee which is involved in waste awareness programmes. In one programme, young ragpickers are partnering with schools in waste management. Currently there are some 350 members of the Dharavi Project.
The foundation has also undertaken another initiative - to organise health clinics, programmes and workshops from which young children engaged in ragpicking can get some kind of informal education in music, photography and other arts. A number of artists have participated in such programmes, among them singers Shankar Mahadevan, Sunita Rao and Apache Indian and Katrina Kaif. "Nearly 43 per cent of those in the waste business are children and women," says Shetty. "We do not want to support child labour but realise that this sector needs alternatives. We hope such cultural events will help them think differently."
With over 1 million people Dharavi is one of the largest slums in the world. By raising awareness about the ragpickers recycling work it helps create more jobs, decent work conditions and salaries for some of the poorest people of Mumbai. ACORN (India) is affiliated with ACORN International, working in 12 countries around the world. Operations in India were set up in 2015, at the time the campaign focused on protecting livelihoods of hawkers and small traders. Acorn is hoping to start work in Chennai and Kolkata soon.
ACORN Foundation India stands strong and proud on four R's. Reduce, Recycle, Reuse and Respect. The ACORN Foundation India Trust organises ragpickers and train them in scientific methods of waste handling, segregation and recycling. "We want to highlight their work in protection of the environment," says Vinod Shetty of the Acorn Foundation. "We want the government to set up a board whereby polluters pay a cess of about one per cent which can go towards giving these ragpickers a proper income with safe equipment like gloves and other amenities. We want them to be trained in how to handle toxic waste and expertise in recycling goods in a non-hazardous way.
Currently self-funded, ACORN is helping some corporates gain access to ultra low-cost recycled items such as corrugated paper boxes from Dharavi recyclers that ACORN has a trusted non-profit relationship with. While helping the recyclers attain sustainable and fair price points, and increase the demand for rag-pickers.
In the future, Acorn wants the government to set up a board whereby polluters pay a cess of about one per cent which can go towards giving these ragpickers a proper income with safe equipment like gloves and other amenities.