7.27.2007

Where does trash go? - In the trash bin!

Here is an article we wrote for the newspapers:

“Saf Safai Sehath Lai.” Children could be heard enthusiastically chanting this slogan in the narrow alleyways of the Buhmin Camp in the Kalkaji district of Delhi. Their eager faces crowded around the Indian and American university students during an animated skit about the benefits of sanitation.
A project to install local trash bins for 175 families to improve cleanliness seems simple, but it will take every effort from the students, the community, as well as local non-governmental organizations and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to change the cleanliness habits of a community in just 3 weeks. For this effort, 5 students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, U.S.A.) have joined 6 students from the Rai Foundation (RF, India) to plan and implement a community project, that will install trash bins to increase local sanitation and health. The multidisciplinary team members have backgrounds ranging from biological and mechanical engineering to physiotherapy, but each student had joined the team with the same goal: to implement a sustainable project that solves a significant need in the community.
During the first phase of the project the team spoke directly with slum inhabitants to hear what they believed were the most substantial problems for their community in the areas of health, education, and disability. Overwhelmingly, members said that garbage and drainage problems were their greatest concerns. Garbage regularly clogs the open sewage channels that run in front of every house and causes flooding of the alleyways and homes, especially during monsoon season. Everyone agreed that increasing the cleanliness would have a dramatically positive impact within the community, but how could this be done quickly, cheaply, and sustainably? The RF-MIT team decided that a community-supervised project in which local trash bins are placed throughout the community (with the consent of each family) was the most promising option for removing garbage from the ground and open sewage channels. These bins would be emptied on a daily basis and the trash transported to the large MCD trash bin by a community-paid sanitation worker.
The second phase of the project, ongoing this week, focuses on creating a community dialogue about the local garbage bin project. Every day the team uses various communication tools including humorous skits, colorful posters, and informational pamphlets to impart information about the benefits and proper use of the local garbage bins. More importantly, however, the team searches for feedback from the community on how they think the project will best succeed. Through the ambition of the students and desire for change of the inhabitants, this project hopes to produce a cleaner and healthier community. If there is less garbage in the sewage channels, the waterways will not clog and provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes: it is the team’s hope that this project will drastically reduce illnesses in the community.
During the final phase of the project next week, the team will install the local trash bins and refine the system of accountability between the community, a local non-governmental organization, and the MCD. If the pilot project is successful, it would provide an inspirational blueprint for improved sanitation in all of Delhi’s slum communities.

Children get a piece of candy if they can answer this question correctly - "Where does the wrapper to this piece of candy go?"
Somehow we convinced Dharani to be the personified trash bin/narrator - he did a great job.
Crowd in Bengali market.There were probably around 100-150 community members gathered.

There was also some mis-coordination within the municipal garbage company which caused them to clear the drains but put all the nastyness in piles on the walkways and then say we asked them to do it....this of course was horrible press for us...but we recovered and scored a bunch of points by getting bags and shovels from the community members and clearning the piles from the square ourselves...I will try to put in a picture of my moving drain-waste as soon as I get it from my team members.

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