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Building a better Bhalswa with Safai Sena

Delhi’s waste management system has a severe impact on the city's margins. Bhalswa, a town on the outskirts of the city, has been subjected to uncontrolled waste dumping for over four decades, resulting in a colossal dumpsite that has turned the area's ecosystem into a disaster zone. Bhalswa is home to over 200,000 people, including migrant communities, climate refugees, and waste workers who toil in hazardous conditions to make a living.

To address the challenges faced by these waste-working communities, the Safai Sena Initiative has proposed the development of a community capacity-building center in Bhalswa. The center aims to promote climate risk mitigation and facilitate the transition to green jobs by providing an inclusive space for skill development and capacity building.

The Safai Sena Centre will be a base of operations to promote dignified and decent work, conduct capacity-building and skilling workshops for the waste-picker community, and for city folk. The center will also involve participatory processes and green skilling through the installation of solar panels, the development of rainwater harvesting pits, composting, and other sustainable practices.

In instances of unprecedented landfill fires and landslides, the Safai Sena Centre will safeguard the community by serving as a relief facility that provides food, water, and medical care. The building's small footprint in a large open space brings great regard for flexibility in temporarily accommodating a displaced population.

In the longer run, the Safai Sena Centre will be a space to consolidate our goals to facilitate green jobs and evolve from waste workers to urban waste managers. As an organization of, by, and for waste working communities, the center will also be grounds to protect the communities' rights, prevent ostracisation, and enable a better future. The initiative is also a scalable and replicable model for citywide implementation and scaling enabling the creation of a waste-based network for better future adaptation and resilience.

The Safai Sena Initiative is a collaborative effort by the Safai Sena, a registered group of waste pickers, doorstep waste collectors, and other types of recyclers, and Better Bhalswa, an urban regeneration initiative at Delhi's worst. Together they aim to develop an ecosystem of solutions to better Bhalswa.

The project is currently in its developmental phase, and a budget indication is as follows:

  1. Renovation Work: INR 2,50,000 / EUR 2964.3

  2. Infrastructural additions such as rooftop solar panels or groundwater recharge pits: INR 50,000 / EUR 592.9

  3. Landscaping: INR 30,000 / EUR 355.7

The Safai Sena Initiative for A-D Global Challenge 2022 offers a glimmer of hope for the waste-working communities of Bhalswa. By providing a space for skill development, capacity building, and climate risk mitigation, the initiative aims to enable a better future for these communities and promote the transition to green jobs.

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