In Smog-Hazed Delhi, This NGO Is Helping Waste-Pickers Breathe

Everyday, Monu and his mother wake up early to go to work. It is a tedious job that requires concentration and care. It also leaves them dirty and smelly. Usually, they manage to rest and regain their strength for the next day.

But, these days have been very hard on them. Their eyes burn, they have developed a bad cough and their lungs seem to want to explode. The boys can’t help it because they have to spend their days outside – in Delhi’s toxic air.

After all, waste-collectors can’t rely on the comfort of their homes to save them from this deadly pollution.

Every day is getting progressively worse in Delhi. As it is, Delhi is one of the world’s most polluted cities. The air quality often oscillates between severe and hazardous – and each one of us are affected, no matter what background we come from. Schools were closed for a brief time, car windows are usually rolled up, doors have been shut and air purifiers have been turned on – all to save ourselves from the very air we need to survive.

Sadly, those on the streets rarely have any means of protecting themselves from these horrible PM levels. Amongst these are Delhi’s waste collectors who have to work outside all day, so that they are able to provide their families with food every night. They bear a ‘double brunt’ – first, from the toxic air, and then, from our trash that carries dust, chemicals and other toxic things.

One of the best solutions recommended by doctors is the use of masks while staying outdoors. But, due to the lack of awareness and resources, these people often don’t wear them. This is why the not-for-profit organisation, Chintan, plans to distribute masks among 5,000 waste collectors in the city and train them on how to use it.

We understand that masks are not a solution to air pollution, but they will partially protect the waste-collectors. In the face of this ongoing and relentless crisis, we need to start helping them in the smallest of ways.

Each mask costs a mere ₹270. So, we ask you to help those who help keep our streets clean. Help them reach out to the poorest and hardest hit in Delhi. After all, not all of us can afford to stay indoors all day – and this horrible smog has a long way to go before it disappears.


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