PRISM: No Waste

Unrecognized and discarded for years, the life of informal waste workers has drastically transformed following the implementation of PRISM

June 7, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -1 June. 6- 2014 (Jestha 23, 2071)

“Our children go to schools. We have certain amounts of savings in our cooperatives. We have maximized our income and we learn new ways to reuse waste plastic bags. Socially, there is now more respect and recognition of our works than ever before,” said Shyam Thakuri, President, Informal Waste Pickers’ Organization, SAJJA, an association of informal waste workers of Kathmandu Valley listing the changes they have seen in the last three years.

Their monthly income ranged from Rs. 1700.00 to Rs.7,500.00. Out of 870 tons of waste of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the informal waste workers managed 100 metric tons. This was huge contribution worth over Rs. 20 million.

“Along with a number of transformations in our livelihood, one of the most important things is the social recognition of our work,” said Shanti Taamang, president of Cooperatives. "Previously, we used to visit waste collectors to get loan when we required. However, now our cooperative can lend up to Rs.15000.00 without any lending.”

There was a strong belief that those who worked in waste collection should not be lent money. "This general perception has changed now," she adds.

“ Although the period of PRISM is very short or just three years, the project has left a greater impact in the solid waste management sector, particularly informal workers who have been putting all the efforts even without any recognition,” said Dr. Sumitra Amatya, head of Solid Waste Management Resource Center.

They previously collected the hazardous waste by raw hand increasing the health risk for infection. After distribution of gloves, shoes and jackets, they collect the garbage safely.

“Municipalities have come to realize the contribution made by informal waste workers to maintain the city clean. Even after completion of the project, we will continue to work with them,” said Pradip Man Amatya, environmental officer at Lalitpur Municipality.

In the three years of the project period, PRISM has made drastic changes in the livelihood of 6,800 informal waste workers who remained a lifeline of Kathmandu valley’s four municipalities and one Metropolitan City.

Practical Action has shown how a small intervention can bring a drastic change. Living in the slums at the banks of Kathmandu Valley rivers, the informal waste workers have seen their overall status change for better now.

At the function organised by Practical Action-Nepal, various stakeholders involved in the solid waste sector shared their experiences in final sharing workshop on PRISM. In its short period, PRISM has helped to establish various institutions to bring the changes in the livelihood of waste workers. They have cooperatives.

"In the first few initial months, we were in confusion and there were difficulties to work with informal waste workers. Since informal waste workers regularly changed their place of residence, it took several months to identify them,” said Achyut Luitel, director Practical Action Regional Office and country director to Nepal.

As the use of plastic products increases, it creates a lot of problems for its proper management. However, Practical Action’s Poverty Reduction of Informal Workers in Solid Waste Management (PRISM) has shown the way to tackle this.

After implementation of PRISM, the family members of waste workers also learned the way to reuse the plastic bags to produce buckets, baskets, money bags, flowers and other many products used for room decoration.

Practical Action organized a final sharing workshop of the Poverty Reduction of Informal Workers in Solid Waste Management (PRISM) project on 23 May 2014. The purpose of the workshop was to share the outcomes, learning and impact of the project.

Jointly inaugurated by Rensje Teerink, Ambassador, Delegation of the European Union to Nepal, Dr Sumitra Amatya, Executive Director, SWMTSC and Shyam Thakuri, President, Informal Waste Pickers’ Organization, the function heard speakers highlighting the contribution made by the PRISM  to improve the livelihood of informal waste pickers.

“I feel privileged to share my opinion on solid waste management. After listing the voices of various stakeholders, I have come to realize that this is a very important and different kind of program involving human parts as well as other parts of solid waste management,” said Dr Mahendra Subba, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development. “ The ministry will replicate this kind of programs in other municipalities, using the learning from this experience.”

PRISM - Poverty Reduction of Informal Workers in Solid Waste Management Sector project was implemented by Practical Action with funding support of the European Union and partnership with Centre for Integrated Urban Development within five municipalities of Kathmandu Valley. The overall objective of the project was to improve living conditions of the informal workers in solid waste management sector in Nepal.

The period of the project was 36 months starting from June 2011 to May 2014. The specific objective was to enhance social protection of the informal workers and vulnerable groups dependent on solid waste for their livelihoods. Project target group consisted of socially excluded Informal Waste Workers (IWWs) of project municipalities.

Dr. Shirish Singh, Head of Urban Water, Sanitation and Waste Program at Practical Action, presented the impact of the project during the event. According to him, a total of 4,341 informal waste workers have directly benefitted after project intervention. He also added that at least 25 major waste based enterprises have been initiated by the IWWs after getting support from the project. Such enterprises include; waste plastic handicrafts, compost making, sack production, bio-briquette production, rickshaw and scrap centers among others.

Special guest of the event Hari Bansa Acharya and Madan Krishna Shrestha expressed the importance of respecting the waste workers for their contribution in solid waste management.

The project was able to identify 8,047 IWWs among which 1,635 are female. Some 59 IWWs’ groups were formed after the project intervention. PRISM facilitated the work to achieve social protection and recognition for IWWs and helped strengthen the capacities of groups within informal waste workers for collective bargaining for better price; enhance their technical and entrepreneurial skills. The project also introduced nine different social protection schemes for their better income and secured livelihood. Under the Health care scheme a total of 1,550 IWWs were able to benefit. Similarly, 2,775, 634, and 518 people were able to benefit from preventive health care, child protection and women protection schemes respectively. Apart from these, a total of 414 IWWs have benefitted from different other schemes.

Practical Action’s South Asia Office Director Achyut Luitel revealed that the CIUD and Practical Action will extend the project for one year.

At the function participated in by government officials, members of donors and non-government organizations, experts, advocacy groups, civil society members, project beneficiaries, private organizations and media personnel, speakers also interacted with the panelists.

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