For four days a massive fire burnt through Mumbai's largest dumping ground in Deonar, so large that it could be seen from space. The cloud of smoke covered the city, putting the air quality level at par with – in places, even worse than – Delhi's abysmal lows.
About 4,000 tonnes of garbage are added to this burgeoning mountain of trash every day. It serves as the source of a livelihood to residents of Nirankari Nagar, the slum located next door. Many of the inhabitants here are waste collectors, sifting through rubbish and finding items that can be sold for money.
The video above is the first part of a 2011 film titled City's Edge, overing this phenomenon and the people employed in it, usually children and women. Produced by five students – Sandeep Kumar Singh, Shweta Radhakrishnan, Sharib Ali, Gin Khan Siam and Abhishekh Yadav – from the 2010 batch of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences' School of Media and Cultural Studies, it centres on a pair of boys. Mohammad Hussain aka Babu does most of the talking as they go about their business on the dump.
The fire may have stopped the daily disposal of garbage, but not the work of the waste collectors. A report in the Indian Express details how those living on waste-picking continued to go into the inferno to make their daily earnings. "Haath jal gaya. Bahut garam hai (my hand's been burnt, it's very hot in there)", it quotes an eight-year-old Rizwan as saying, just back from the dumping ground with a gunny-bag full of waste.
The fire was put out last Monday, but there is fear among the residents that the dumping ground – their source of livelihood – will be closed now.
Watch the second part of the film below: