Within the capital of Asuncion, Paraguay lays the countries largest waste disposal site called Cateura. The metropolitan area of Asuncion has rapidly grown in urban population and development over the past 40 years, but not in a well-planned manner. As such, this has created environmentally sensitive areas associated with negative impacts such as inadequate storm water drainage systems, and solid waste collection and disposal. This affects the water supply and sanitation infrastructure and services, as well as the livelihood of its inhabitants.
This background paper will nalyze the environmental risks of waste disposal in Asuncion, Paraguay and how that affects the land as well as the people. An overview will be made on the Cateura Landfill, its residents and workers, initiatives proposed by locals, as well as those made on a global scale. Through research it seems that small but conscious efforts are being made by government and residents of the city to regulate better waste management systems, with assistance of other nations. In Paraguay, one of the poorest countries and one with highest economic disparities in the Americas, about 40 percent of its 6. illion people live in relative or extreme poverty. Though it is the fastest-growing country in the Americas, nearly third of its population lives below the poverty line. According to fgures from the government’s planning office, the average rate of solid waste production in urban areas across Paraguay in 2002 was about one kilo per person per day. In comparison to the United States in 2002, we produced roughly double. Connected to the Paraguay River, the Cateura landfill now receives over 1,500 tons of solid waste a day, which is 95% of Asuncion’s waste (Recycled Orchestra, n. d. ).
Poor management of the waste has caused critical pollution to the most important water source in the country and threatens the health of its residents. More than 2,500 families live atop this landfill in a slum, and many adults and children have Jobs as garbage pickers. About 90% of the Catuera population’s resources are found from the trash. Men, women, and children who sift through the 1 ,500 tons of waste deposited daily (of which 66% is organic and biodegradable, and 34% inorganic) are exposed to diseases born of bacteria and toxic waste. The hygiene and environmental issues are a real problem.
Even though they live by the landfill, the infrastructure of the place is so under-developed that they do not even have a garbage pickup or any kind of trash system in place. So people throw their garbage around, some burn them, creating a polluted area filled with trash everywhere. Their water creek is completely polluted. They hope to bring some awareness on these issues as well, and assist in creating opportunities to support a plan that will tackle this issue. Landfills have negative environmental impacts and affect air, groundwater, and soil. Soil absorbs many chemicals and can remain ontaminated long after waste dumping has ceased.
Skin and crops can absorb these chemicals also if direct contact is made with the soil. If the soil is contaminated, then surrounding water supplies can become exposed to these chemicals, making the water hazardous and polluted. These toxic chemicals from the soil can also be hazardous waste, it is creating a hotbox of chemical gases. These are called Landfill Gases, which happens when waste breaks down. It is primarily methane and carbon dioxide, as well as sulfur-containing compounds. These gases are highly flammable and can cause toxic black smoke if caught aflame.
Each day in Cateura, people scurry to the landfill following the dump trucks coming to make their latest deposit as to be the first to find the best food, clothes, and valuables deep within the trash. These trucks are painted blue with the logo “Cultura es Limpieza” in white, meaning cleanliness is culture, an ironic saying. Landfills bring several health insecurities because of the exposure to hazardous waste. Used needles, feces, bacteria, chemicals, and toxins are all found within the garbage that these residents not only sift through daily but also live atop of.
Perhaps worst of all is when the hospital umps their trash on the side of the road in Cateura, leaving behind body parts. Requests have been made for hospitals to not do this and have been denied. Often times the parts are eaten by pigs and chickens and dogs carry the limbs around (Children, 2008)). This brings concerns for parents who have children exposed to these images. Health risks such as increased rates of genetic mutations, birth defects, certain cancers, and malaria are connected to living close to landfills (Landfill, n. d. ).
In general and at minimum, most residents are susceptible to headaches or nausea because of the odor. Analyzing the social structure of the residents will create an understanding of their social well-being and what efforts they are making to improve their lifestyles. These workers are nicknamed gancheros, which refers to the hooks, or “ganchos,” they use. The gancheros and their children live in slums called banados, which occupy the swamps between Asuncion and the River Paraguay. About 1,000 gancheros live and work in the area of the landfill (Landfill Harmonic, 2011).
Paraguay ranks number seven on the list of income inequalities of countries, where the average income is on average $5. 50 a day. Asuncions have mixed feelings about the status of the Cateura landfill. Some understand and accept that they live in an impoverished country with limited resources, while others are angered by the fact that after multiple requests and empty promises from the government, there has been minimal change. “The state does nothing,” says Gladys ?…guilar, 61, from a shantytown next to the landfill. Politicians put a sweet in our mouths with their promises. But when they are elected all they care about is power and the sweet turns bitter” (Gilbert, 2013). This is why many gancheros have taken it upon themselves to make the difference within Cateura, rather than wait for officials to take on a heroic role. The people of Cateura understand the need for more long-term practices, rather than immediate but temporary solutions. Different plans and programs have been put in place or discussed to improve the lives of the gancheros.
Asunci?¶n Association of Cart Drivers and Recyclers was formed in 2008 and creates an internal economy for recycling. The association was formed because of a lack of follow through with government to establish a proper recycling program. Asuncion city councilor Carlos Galarza said in 2010, “there is no ollow-up by the municipal administration. There have been sporadic attempts to set continues stating that, “the work of the recyclers in the streets is important because it reduces the volume of waste going to the dump by five percent. Currently, for one kilogram of plastics they are paid the equivalent of 31 cents on the dollar, while for a kilo of cardboard it is Just seven cents from large corporations (Inter Press, n. d. ). Since this time, the Asuncion government has recognized the issue of insufficient waste management and has called forth efforts to improvise standards. The Municipality of Asuncion spent “a major investment of over 500 million gauranis ($113,000 US) for the acquisition of two Bob-Cats (plows), which will form part of the fleet of machinery for harvesting of garbage in the streets” (Ciudad de Asuncion, n. . ). These machines were purchased with tax money from the people. However, the garbage cleaned from the streets (though called an act of public service) is still dumped in Catuera, further increasing their pollution at the waste site. On October 16, 2013 the mayor presented a report on Asuncion 100 days into his administration nd stated “we are not only working but also fulfilling the commitment we have made to present an assessment of our management issue of results” (Ciudad de Asuncion, n. d. ).
They plan to focus on four elements including human resources, infrastructure, processes, and projects at the Catuera landfill. Two things that are being planned are to have sweepers working 20 hours a day to sweep and remove garbage from unauthorized areas and also to make a metal inverted dome to have control over the garbage deposited. An ordinance is currently underway to create zoning within Asuncion to divide areas based on environmental concerns. With help from USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank, training, equipment and services are being provided.
A loan of $700,000 from Germany is currently helping to clean the water of the Paraguay River that has been polluted from this site. A core team of gancheros has been trained in recycling methods that bring higher levels of safety and higher earnings, both of which raise the standard of living for the several ganchero neighborhoods surrounding the landfill (Landfill Recyclers, 2013). Income has increased from about $5. 0 to $8. 50 per day, while the average workday has decreased from twelve hours to eight. Children can now go to school, and a local NGO has donated music instruments and classes.
In addition, the community created a cooperative, now with 1 50 ganchero members, to provide loans, education and solidarity. By leveraging their experience into other arenas (such as providing cleaning services to companies), the gancheros are even making a transition from an informal and individual recycling process to a business oriented model. Overall findings have found that the governing bodies of Asuncion have not xpressed heavy interest in reform, but with pressure from residents, programs and plans of implementing better waste management are being established.
Though plans of street cleaning, reduction of waste, and creating Jobs within the waste management department is helping transform Asuncion and the Cateura Landfill into a more sustainable location, recycling has been the greatest savior to these residents and has helped improve the economy by increasing reproduction, trade, and labor. The Caterura Landfill of Paraguay is most well known, not for its poor infrastructure or poverty levels, but for its student orchestra. Favio Chavez, director of the Recycled Orchestra, worked as an ecological technician at the dump.
He then decided to reach instruments out of recycled material and has since formed the Landfill Harmonic orchestra, which has brought the 30+ students hope and passion for music, and they are now traveling performers with a grant from Oxford University. “Music has changed my life – I feel completely different,” says 11-year-old Israel, one of 65 children studying at Cateura, while holding a violin tightly with his hands (Daniels, 2008). Currently a documentary is being made following the making and tour of the rchestra and will be released in 2014.
During a two-month fundraiser in May of this year, they asked for a maximum of $175,000 to be raised. They exceeded $214,000 from all over the world, which allowed them funds to finish film production. Goals of this film are to educate, fund international concerts, inspire other countries to start this program, educate about recycling, and of course bring attention to emergent needs of Cateura. Since November of 2012, the trailer of the documentary has been viewed 3. 3 million times and there are over 150,000 followers on Facebook. Sponsorships have formed for the orchestra and separate fundraising for Cateura is underway.
Global attention is being brought in via the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra, with instruments made of the trash that they live atop of. With more of a spotlight on Asuncion, more litigation to assist and fund waste management practices has come to the forefront, as most findings of new initiatives were dated in September of this year. Hopefully with continued projects, Catuera Landfill and Asuncion as a city itself will improve environmentally, economically, and the well-being of residents. Momentum is definitely building. The Paraguayan government body FONDAC is providing support for a music school.
Being a severely poor country, with little capital or resources, Paraguay is also receiving funds from countries such as the United States and Germany, as well as assistance from the World Bank to establish a solid podium for change. References Children living on landfills hazardous waste landfill. (2008, October 5). YouTube. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://www. youtube. com/watch7FY_NLJ6DAHFc. : CIUDAD DE ASUNCION: (n. d. ).. : CIUDAD DE ASUNCION: Retrieved October 24, 2013, from http://www. mca. gov. py/ Daniels, A. 2008, May 24). Sounds of hope from Paraguay dump.
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