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Kabul – Life from the Stinky Mountains

Searching for possible "treasures" in the garbage dump of northern Kabul

Searching for possible “treasures” in the garbage dump of northern Kabul

North of Kabul, on the top of barren hills, is located the garbage dump of all waste of the capital. The complete waste, after passes the selection of waste pickers from all around the capital, ends its journey here. Waste pickers, those who try to find treasures from dumps of waste, can be recognized easily. They are people in dirty clothes, with a sack on their backs, and dwindle around Kabul streets or garbage dumps searching for something. Most of the waste pickers in Kabul are children, besides  adult men and women.

Garbage from the streets is then dumped here, on a hill north of Kabul, as the final dumping point of all garbage in the whole capital. Garbage which makes its way here can be assumed as the most unusable kind of garbage, or we can say the garbage of all garbage. But still, this kind of place may provide life for some people.

Lunch, everybody?

Lunch, everybody?

Waris, 12 year old boy, spends his full day picking garbage at this central dumping point. Actually not much valuable thing he can find here, but plastic bottles and Coca Cola tins. He will sell anything he successfully picks as ‘quite valuable and sellable’ to a collector shop nearby and earns about 100 Af per day. That is only US$ 2.
Waris is not alone. Many much more Kabul children end their live as garbage pickers. They have no access for education or any other community service. What they think everyday is how to collect valuable things among valueless materials. For 7 kg of plastic, means several sacks of garbage, they earn 40 Af only. Aluminum material is worth more. But being at final dumping station means valuable items had reached the most minimum amount possible.

The value of the garbage is estimated by this scale

The value of the garbage is estimated by this scale

While even mountains of garbage may give the boys some money, but the one who earns most is of course the garbage shop owner. He pays the waste-picker children for their work, depending on the weight of their collection, and he resells it to the businessmen who seeks for recyclable materials. On one good business day, he may earns 1000 Af ($20), even higher than my salary as a photojournalist in Kabul.

But with flies and disgusting insects outnumber your hair, and unpleasant smell intrudes your every single breath, not to say the threats from invisible dangerous micro bacteria, living here is surely not easy.

Unfortunately, these young children has to dig deep in the bottom of hills of stinky garbage, merely to survive.

The wastepicker boys of Kabul

The wastepicker boys of Kabul

"But I also go to school. I come here after school."

“But I also go to school. I like to study. I come here after class,” says him.

4 Comments on Kabul – Life from the Stinky Mountains

  1. Absolute Rubbish! (haha, good aye?). Are you in Afghanistan right now, Ming? I’m confused if you are still travelling, or if these are articles from your earlier journey there.

  2. Gus,

    Why don’t you teach them how to make a kompos :-)

  3. Gus,
    I am truly sad to see these images and read about whats happenning in Afganistan.I live in Dubai and have been a resident for some 20 odd years.Just last month I helped out a friend from Afganistan at an exhibition called DIHAD-Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition 2007.She is from Kabul and is doing some wonderful work there.Her name is Hassina Sherjan and she runs an outfit called-Boumi.
    What kind of work are you doing in Afganistan?Are you a journalist?Sorry I did not get a chance to go through the blog.Good luck.Ambika

  4. bunda ade dan kakak // May 24, 2007 at 4:26 pm // Reply

    its quite interesting to learn how different what u do now from what u have been working academically.
    I understand all about the hobby thing or fulfiling ur soul ,, lets aside that for awhile,,
    I am just wondering,, later when u go home, what is your most interest n doing for yourself, your community, and even bigger picture ,, u know ,,

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