We all know the kawadi, the collectors of glass, paper and metal who pass through our neighbourhoods every day. But they have received little recognition for their trouble in helping our cities sort out their rubbish over the years. They are the original recyclers, true conservationists, though they have not been recognised as such.
This changed recently thanks to Yatra, a youth organisation working in the field of the environment, when a group of 25 kawadi working in the Kathmandu Valley were honoured as 'Conservation Heroes'. A group of youth, doctors and journalists accompanied them in a cycle rally to the water body of Nagdaha, where they were invited to benefit from an eye and dental camp. The participants were given first aid tool boxes and first aid training to counter the risks they run in the course of their work.
Anand Mishra and Rijana Shrestha, coordinators of the program, underlined the importance of recognising the work of the kawadi, who themselves are largely unaware of their role in reducing urban waste. Respecting them for their work, said the coordinators, will set an example for future endeavours in the field of the environment.
Prabhu Prasad Rauniyar, 48, recounted how he had been working as a kawadi for the last 22 years, earning between Rs 50 and Rs 400 a day. Accustomed to being teased by the neighbourhood kids, Rauniyar rejoiced at the fact that for the first time, his work was being appreciated.