India's Ghazipur Landfill

A Trash Mountain Taller than the Taj Mahal

On the outskirts of Delhi sits one of three large trash mountains. Ghazipur Landfill is said to be taller than the Taj Mahal. With the help of my fixer, I gained access into the landfill and made my way to the top. I was only allowed 5 short minutes to walk around and photograph while hiding my cameras upon descent.

Children and adults alike from the colony below, pick the trash for a days’ worth of work, collecting only enough recyclables or treasure to fill a few bags – It earns them up to a dollar a day.

The air quality in Delhi during the months of late October and early November is severe. Annual stubble burning in the north along with a cold stream of air from the Kashmir drops this smog onto Delhi where it collects with the smoke from Diwali fireworks, creating a toxic mix of health hazards. At the top of the trash mountain and in the slum living below, your eyes burn from the pollution. If you don’t smoke cigarettes, now you do, your throat feels constricted, and your face becomes quickly textured with black soot.

People that live here are really poor. Many of them are marginalized people from nearby regions or countries. Life expectancy in the slums below the trash mountain is about 40 years. Deadly landslides and trash fires are common. But that doesn’t make the people who live here unfriendly or unhappy. Walking up the steps into the brick home at the base of the dump, I was offered a seat, food, and overwhelming hospitality. Smiles across the colony are endless.

Reflecting on this experience, I remain speechless by the question, “How can people with so little, living in such horrible conditions, be some of the most giving, I’ve ever met?”

©| Delhi, India - October 31, 2022.