Recognize the Kabari: It’s commonsense and good policy
Note written in August 2006
Over the past few days, several kabari waste segregation and recycling shops been sealed all over Delhi. This has been part of the overall drive against sealing commercial establishments.
It is surprising that despite the long standing commitment of the MCD, the Government of NCR, Delhi and the Central Government towards solid waste management, segregation and recycling, such a step is still being undertaken without any considerations towards the environment, health and sustainable consumption.
Moreover, according to the National Environment Policy, 2006, in Section 5.2.8. Section iii (Soil Pollution) , pt (e), it is stated that the informal sector must be recognized legally.
It is clear that kabadi establishments, run by the poor on the basis of their own entrepreneurial spirit, cannot be classified as commercial activities, but as essential services. Besides, as an emerging global leader, India is obligated to follow in spirit and in letter the policies set by the many International Development Conferences, if it is to present world class cities to the global visitor.
The rationale for treating the kabari as an essential service to the city is compelling. However, this requires political will, which we seek from you, as a Member of Parliament representing Delhi as well as a Minister of State
Here below are further reasons for a shift in the understanding of kabari establishments :
As a function of fulfilling India’s Internal and International Development Obligations:
; The Indian Environment Policy, 2006, deems their work as an important
; They are engaged in segregation and recycling of waste, as per the Municipal
Solid Waste (Handling and Management) Rules 2000
; Working with Kabari establishments actually results in improving the urban
environment, as part of creating sustainable habitats globally. This is in
consonance with the broad International Environmental Legal Framework, of
which India has been a driving force internationally. Aspects of this framework
are seen in the well respected Brundtland Commission of 1987, which has
emphasized that sustainable development must take into account the interests
of the poor.
; The International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in
1994, has clearly stated that sustainable development should include issues of
demography and poverty.
; Experts on Solid Waste have concurred that working with the informal
recycling sector is in consonance with achieving the Millennium Development
As a function of economic development, sustainable habitats:
; They handle 20% of the waste from residential areas and upto 59% from
; In Delhi, the sector offers at least Rs. 600,000 as a daily subsidy to the city
through their work.
; It is ironic that while the kabaris handle the city’s waste and follow the norms
of segregation and recycling, they are being punished for this work.
; Waste handling and recycling has emerged as one of the most important
initiatives in the public health arena in Urban India
; Much of the paper industry is dependant on segregated paper from these
sources. As it is, there is a shortfall in available waste paper, which is being
imported from North America. Shutting down the kabaris will aggravate this
situation and attract more international waste paper
There are examples of innovation and inclusion all over the world, from the Philippines to Brazil and Argentina. In each case, the kabari has been recognized and allocated a space in the city to operate from. Even in India, various states have been promoting these activities. These are the tools of new governance in the developing world that showcase innovation.
We therefore demand a proactive stance and action to :
o Remove kabari establishments from the list of commercial activities
identified for sealing.
o Opening such recycling stations that were sealed
o Recognition of their space for work as resource recovery centers
o Legitimize their work by giving them licenses to operate
We are confident that these steps will only set up new standards for innovative urban governance as also for waste handling which is a burning issue all over India.