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For just £2 a day, Children put their blood and sweat in India’s Biggest e-waste graveyard at Seelampur

E-waste is one of the largest and yet an unorganized sector in India and provides employment to more than 1 lakh people

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A child surrounded by e-waste. Image source: www.greenpeace.org
  • India accounts for scrapping 70 percent of the World’s e-waste
  • E-waste comprise of all sort of electronic items which contains toxic elements like mercury, lead and cadmium
  • Attero recycling is the only company having a license to import e-waste

India is emerging as one of the world’s major electronic waste generators and accounts for scrapping 70% of the World’s e-waste. Seelampur, a small city is one such market for e-waste in India is situated 15 kilometers in East Delhi.

According to a study on ‘Electronic Waste Management in India,’ conducted by ASSOCHAM–cKinetics joint study on ‘World Environment Day’- by 2018, the global volume of e-waste generated is expected to reach 130 million tons from 93.5 million tons in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate of 17.6% from 2016 to 2018, said the business-standard.com report.
E-waste shop. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
E-waste shop. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Seelampur is the largest e-waste dismantling hub in India. Seelampur has the distinction of having more than 3000 small and big shops for scrapping e waste. E-waste is one of the largest and yet an unorganized sector in India. It provides employment to more than one lakh people. E-waste market in Seelampur, alone, provides bread and butter to more than thirty thousand people.

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According to a NGO report, India itself produces around 4 lakh tonnes of electronic waste and illegally imports fifty thousand tonnes of e-waste through various developed and developing countries like USA, South Korea, Australia and various other countries of Europe. However, Attero recycling is the only company having a license to import e-wastes.

People working in e-waste. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
People working in e-waste. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Each truck carries around 10 tonnes of e-waste which enters into Seelampur e-waste market. Most of the people working in these shops and godowns are teenagers. Most of the poor teenage population of Seelampur does not go to school but work in these shops and earn Rs 200 per day.

However, the  workers suggest that there work is just limited to segregation and after that the waste is taken to the jungles near Lucknow. They usually segregate copper from the plastic material.

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Teenage working in e-waste shop. Image Source: www.cseindia.org
Teenage working in e-waste shop. Image Source: www.cseindia.org

E-waste includes all electronic items which in turns contain toxic elements like mercury, lead and cadmium. Since, putting this waste in landfills is very expensive and bury them below the ground is harmful for the environment, people generally opt for e-waste.

Moreover, these e wastes contain some radioactive substance which can prove harmful to the workers. Around 4-5 years back, Seelampur came into the headlines because of deaths caused by radioactive elements.

In 2010, a scrap dealer died due to exposure of radioactive radiations when 60 Cobalt pencils were found in the scrap materials.

-This report is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

ALSO READ:

  • AJ Krish

    These toxic substances need a proper disposal system as India itself produces around 4 lakh tonnes of electronic waste.

  • AdamMinter

    The picture atop this article was taken in 2001. In China. Do you think it accurately portrays the current situation in India? Because I regularly travel to e-waste zones in both countries, and I can tell you that it had little do with what happened in them in 2001, or today. But don’t let that get in the way of sensationalizing, I guess. Way to go.

SHARE
  • AJ Krish

    These toxic substances need a proper disposal system as India itself produces around 4 lakh tonnes of electronic waste.

  • AdamMinter

    The picture atop this article was taken in 2001. In China. Do you think it accurately portrays the current situation in India? Because I regularly travel to e-waste zones in both countries, and I can tell you that it had little do with what happened in them in 2001, or today. But don’t let that get in the way of sensationalizing, I guess. Way to go.

Next Story

“They Don’t Make Prayerful Offerings When They Harvest,” Story Of The Native American Church

“The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

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The sun sets over the gateway of peyotera Amada Cardenas's house in Mirando City, Texas. Ironwork reflects core Native American Church values of faith, hope, love and charity. VOA

Back in the day, when the “grandmas and grandpas” of the Native American Church (NAC) needed peyote, they would make a 2,000-kilometer pilgrimage from the reservations of South Dakota to the tiny town of Mirando City, Texas, close to the U.S. border with Mexico. That’s where they could find Amada Cardenas, a Mexican-American woman who at the time was the only peyote dealer in Texas.

Cardenas was not Native American, nor was she a member of the NAC. But she understood how sacred the medicine was to church members and defended its use as a religious sacrament to those who sought to ban it.

Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994.
Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994. VOA

“After Amada’s passing, the peyote distribution system lost heart and seemed to be about monetary compensation,” said Iron Rope, former chairman of the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) and today chairman of the NAC of South Dakota. He is concerned that the remaining three or four peyote dealers in Texas — all non-Native — don’t give “the medicine” the reverence they should.

“They don’t make prayerful offerings when they harvest,” Iron Rope said. “We’ve heard reports about intoxicated harvesters. Sometimes, the medicine that comes to us was mushy or small, and the harvesting technique was not one that would allow regrowth.”

Careless and sometimes illegal harvesting, along with increased land and resource development in Texas, has led to a decline in peyote’s quality and availability. Prices have gone up, and church members worry the cactus, now listed as a vulnerable species, could become endangered.

In 2013, NACNA began researching ways to conserve peyote and its natural habitat.

Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico.
Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico. VOA

Pan-Native religion

Peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, is a succulent that contains psychoactive alkaloids and only grows in southern Texas and a handful of states in northern Mexico.

Indigenous people have used it ceremonially and medicinally for centuries, as noted by 16th century Spanish missionaries, who condemned it as an evil. Peyote use persisted, however, and by the late 1800s, had spread to present-day Oklahoma, where tribes adapted it to suit their individual spiritual traditions.

In the face of government efforts to ban peyote, peyotists in the early 20th century sought to incorporate as a formal religion. In 1918, an intertribal group established the NAC, which has evolved to include tens of thousands of members across dozens of tribal nations. Members view the church as an important component of healing from historic trauma and reconnecting to tradition.

Peyote was banned in the United States in 1970, but the law was later amended to allow peyote to be used in “bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church.”

Texas allows several peyoteros registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to harvest and sell peyote, but only to card-carrying NAC members with proven Native American ancestry.

Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007.
Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007. VOA

‘A beautiful ceremony’

Unlike other religious denominations, said Iron Rope, the NAC is not a unified theology.

“Different variations of the ceremony have come into play,” he said. “There are Christian aspects to the NAC today and traditional aspects, as well.”

Wynema Morris, a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and an NAC member, grew up with an understanding of the sacredness of peyote and the religious etiquette surrounding its use.

“It was my own grandfather, Samuel Thomas Gilpin, who actually received peyote early on from the Winnebagos, a neighboring tribe, and passed it on to his sons, my uncles,” she said.

This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled "Cheyenne Peyote Leader." Courtesy: Library of Congress.
This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled “Cheyenne Peyote Leader.” Courtesy: Library of Congress. VOA

Peyote is much misunderstood and maligned, she said, viewed by many anthropologists through the lens of colonial prejudice.

“I don’t like their use of the word ‘hallucinations,’” she said. “You don’t use peyote to get high. You use it to pray and communicate with God — the same God everyone else talks to.”

She described all-night services of prayer, song and meditation.

“The ceremony is beautiful,” she said. “The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

Sacred gardens

In 2013, NACNA began looking at ways to conserve and sustain peyote for future generations of indigenous Americans, Mexicans and Canadians.

“It was our intent to eventually have our own land and be able to have our own peyote dealer who could understand our concerns as the Native American Church,” said Iron Rope.

The sun sets over "the 605," acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church.
The sun sets over “the 605,” acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church. VOA

In 2017, NACNA and partner organizations formally launched the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI). With funding from the Riverstyx Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research of medicinal uses of psychoactive plants, IPCI purchased 245 hectares (605 acres) of land in Thompsonville, Texas, to serve as “Sacred Peyote Gardens.”

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It is their hope that by 2021, “the 605” will house a nursery, residential and guest housing, and youth training, all supported by peyote sales.

“It’s about generations to come,” said Iron Rope. “To reconnect them to the land and to the medicine. And that’s the healing process that we’ve been missing.” (VOA)