Postcard from Mumbai: Life on rubbish mountain

Saumya Roy describes the perils facing the waste pickers of Deonar

The World Today Published 4 February 2022 2 minute READ

Saumya Roy

Mumbai-based journalist, activist and author of ‘Mountain Tales: Love and Loss in the Municipality of Castaway Belongings’ 

Akram Shaikh video-calls me from work on a breezy, cool January morning. The 19-year-old shows me a scene of muddy construction debris mingled with plastic bags, squashed plastic bottles and red cloth scraps strewn below him. 

Standing on top of Mumbai’s tall Deonar rubbish mountains, Shaikh tells me he is getting married. Where did they meet, I ask. ‘Right here,’ he says smiling. She picks trash too. 

Mumbai is one of the world’s most populous cities and one of India’s greatest economic engines. As the city grew faster, the 300-acre Deonar rubbish mountains grew precipitously too. Today, the wastelands are a symbol of India’s rapid growth and matching consumption, and the challenges it poses from the pollution and climate change it brings.

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