A tough life for man - and bird

For the ragpickers of Guwahati and the greater adjutant - tall birds from the stork family - the garbage dumps in this city in India's Assam state play a sad, but vital, role in their survival.

The dumps are feeding grounds for the birds, even as the species' existence is under threat. Its population has plummeted in recent decades, as the wetlands these birds depend on for foraging and nesting are filled up for development.

For thousands of ragpickers in the city, the huge mounds of rubbish are a source of items such as plastic that can be sold for recycling. It is a harsh way to make a living, considering they earn only meagre amounts, and are also at risk of getting injured and contracting diseases.

But such communities remain the backbone of India's informal waste management sector.

Such topics were in the spotlight yesterday as India hosted the official celebrations of World Environment Day. This year's theme, which focused on plastic pollution, is especially relevant in India, where more than 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is thrown out every day as per a 2013 estimate, of which a comparatively high 60 per cent is said to be recycled.

It has been noted that the country could be key in combating plastic pollution by improving its waste management facilities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2018, with the headline 'A tough life for man - and bird'. Print Edition | Subscribe