Spot the Problem

There’s a dump here in Mae Sot and, like many dumps, it’s dirty and it smells. Trucks deliver garbage, and a Hyundai excavator moves things around into very high mounds of trash. Here’s a photo of the excavator at work:

The dump in Mae Sot, sadly similar to those in a number of other developing countries, is not only frequented by excavators and garbage trucks. In the uncropped version of this same photo, there’s one clear problem. Can you see what it is?

*The photo above is downloadable at high resolution. Click the photo to view the high-res copy, and then right-click on that image and select “save image as” to save it to your computer. Free to keep on your computer, please request permission first if you’d like to use it for anything.*

Over 300 people live on the trash (many of their homes are literally sitting on top of refuse), earning money by picking out recyclable plastic to take to a recycling depot a ways away. They used to earn 5 baht per kilo brought in, but that’s now down to 1 baht per kilo (that’s CAD 3.6 cents per kilo or CAD 1.6 cents per pound). If you weigh 200 pounds, you’d need to carry your own body weight in recyclable plastic about a mile to earn CAD $3.20. Not the kind of work your average ten year old girl should be doing to help her family survive.

The people living at the dump are illegal migrants from Burma, a country where life is so difficult for them that they are willing to live (if you can call it that) on a garbage dump. They’re not pitying themselves and crying, and they’re not begging in the streets as some able-bodied people do here. They’re working hard, for little pay.

There is no official funding to help pay for better food, warmer clothing (it’s VERY cold here at night), better footwear, medicine for the common diseases (tuberculosis, worms, malaria, dengue fever, bronchial infections, etc). Publicity is hard, because too much attention causes the Thai government to periodically send in the police to clear all the people out, who then sneak back in a few days later, rather than try and help the people.

There is one kind man who has been going in multiple times a week for over a year now, doing his best to help the people with some of the worst problems they face. If you feel like donating a small amount of money for his efforts while I’m still in Mae Sot (until the end of this month), send me an email and let me know. There’s no charitable donation receipt, so it’s up to you if you want to trust me to receive the money from you and withdraw it from my Canadian bank account on this side, then tell you what it was used for.

A number of people are currently working together to try and find a durable solution to help the people on the dump relocate to a new home away from the garbage, earning money doing other things. This planning will take quite some time and is only really in its infancy, so at the moment there is still a significant need to help meet the basic daily needs of these people.

2 Comments

  1. Andrew Strain January 21, 2009 at 09:27 #

    I’ll go with the fact that the dump is right next to the swamp/lake/pond…

  2. Shawn Pedralba January 21, 2009 at 20:57 #

    Yuk, I hate polution.

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