On The Edge

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Academic Papers
in Policy, Survival

Seeking common ground for people: Livelihoods, governance and waste

Jam Chakro is a large International Donor-funded landfill site in Karachi, when opened in 1996 it was intended to be carefully managed by the Karachi municipal authorities. However, within weeks of opening it was overtaken by informalsector waste workers. They are mostly poor rural migrants who have gravitated towards urban areas seeking work. Their waste sorting and recycling work, which involves burning waste, is now responsible for serious environmental degradation and poor waste management. Nearby residents are being affected by the smoke, and wish to see an end to the burning. Local authorities are under pressure to manage the waste better and wish to see an end to the recycling activities. However, initial attempts to stop these activities and relocate people, sometimes involving force, have been unsuccessful. The workers complain that they depend on the waste work for their survival. This paper is concerned with the problems caused by the informal-sector recycling work at Jam Chakro, and the need for finding environmentally and financially sustainable solutions which respect the interests of all stakeholders. It is based on fieldwork which involved detailed stakeholder identification and consultation, to ensure that different perspectives were heard and accounted for. In the light of research findings, the paper discusses some of the proposed options for integrating informal-sector livelihoods into the formal operation of the landfill site. These are based around organising waste reclamation and recycling work and enabling it to take place without burning waste. The paper proposes that the problems at Jam Chakro can in part be attributed to not having accounted for the poor in planning, necessary for developing sustainable solutions to the problems.

Author(s): Jonathan R. Rouse

Publication: Habitat International 30,741–753

Date: 2006

Country: Pakistan

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